The worlds of magic and science collide in Charlie Jane Anders’ debut novel, a sensitive, funny and beautifully drawn study of a friendship in the face of our world’s imminent end.
It’s the story of Patricia and Laurence, who find each other while trying to survive as school outsiders. Patricia discovers that she’s different when she suddenly finds that she’s able to talk to birds. Laurence is a budding science genius who creates a time machine that lets him jump two seconds into the future. Their friendship hits the speed bumps of Laurence’s fear of her magic powers, high-school peer pressure and an assassin posing as their guidance counsellor, but they have a tremendous impact on each other.
When they reconnect years later, she’s a talented witch and he’s part of a team working on a way to get mankind off our dying Earth. Can their rekindled friendship survive the planet-threatening hardships to come?
The first and perhaps most important point to make is that Anders has created an utterly convincing and affecting central friendship, with all its highs and lows, flaws and triumphs. Similarly, the world around them is both fantastical enough to beguile while staying rooted in a recognisable reality.
Once Anders takes us (seamlessly) into their early adulthood, their connection is just as strong, but the world around them is changing at a terrifying rate. Patricia’s witch superiors discuss a radical final solution to save the planet, and Laurence’s boss has an invention that may well tear Earth in two.
The environmental and political themes are strong in All The Birds In The Sky, and Anders shows incredible skill and confidence in weaving them into the core relationship. It’s never cloying or preachy, while remaining moving, witty and worryingly relevant. This is a wonderful read, and we cannot wait to see what Anders does next.