All the Birds in the Sky - Charlie Jane Anders

In a genre full of trilogies (and longer!), it's always a pleasure to see a standalone novel make an appearance, not to mention that All the Birds in the Sky really sounded like my kind of thing, so this book had been on my wish-list for a while - I don't often pre-order books, unless it's a really great deal, so that was fairly unusual too...

 

The main characters in All the Birds in the Sky are two relative outsiders - Patricia has an older sister who is always getting up to things and blaming them on her, while Laurence is a computer nerd who'd much rather deal with machines than people. They first meet in school, with the overall plot-line of the book separating them and bringing them back together over and over again. Early on in the book, Patricia discovers that she can communicate with animals (in particular, birds) and is led by one of them to a tree where she is given a riddle to solve, though her engagement with magic comes in fits and starts. Laurence is, meanwhile, creating an AI which will eventually become sentient (though only with Patricia's help) and dreaming of rockets. 

 

One of the things I really liked about this book was the way magic was described, with Patricia's communication with animals being a bit of a pain at times, rather than a pleasure. I was significantly less interested in Laurence, with the focus of his non-scientific time being so much about his desperate need for a romantic relationship and, eventually, this being with Patricia (which I was more than a little disappointed by, since it seemed far too 'easy'). The two of them are, as we discover later on, working at complete cross-purposes - Laurence is part of a scheme to try and evacuate the planet, but which Patricia and her colleagues believe is more of a doomsday device. 

 

Interestingly enough, given that this is part of a genre that has often reduced women to love interests, it's unusual to read a book where the male character is so obsessed with being in a relationship. In comparison to the main female character, whose attention is more on magic and the uses of it, with everything else secondary. Maybe that's why I found Laurence so borderline annoying, because he was playing a role no character should be forced to play, so much second fiddle in a plot for which he was partly responsible?