When you read the summary of Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky, the first thing that comes to mind is that it’s genre-bending. It is rare to find a book that successfully mixes two popular genres into one—but that’s what Anders manages to accomplish in her engaging first novel. Science fiction and fantasy blend together to create a page-turning book that keeps its readers hooked right until the end.
The tale begins with a friendship between a budding witch and a science inventor during their formative years in a cruel school that punishes people who are different. When Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead first meet as kids, they are both already bearing the heavy burden of families who fail to understand their gifted children.
Patricia is a witch who can talk to birds while Laurence has already invented his own time machine by a young age (albeit it only jumps two seconds into the future). Despite their core differences, they become each other’s close confidantes and saviours, even as forces outside their control attempt to pry them apart. It is this indestructible friendship that endures throughout the book’s time jumps.
The friends meet again later on in life. And although their reconnection is shaky at first, they eventually rediscover their childhood bond. A love story inevitably forms between the witch and the science genius.
But All the Birds in the Sky is more than just a love story. The novel raises complex moral questions about the ways in which each protagonist can use their power to save the world—a world that is on the verge of an apocalypse (not really that far-fetched with what is happening now). Their conflicting decisions and clashing differences pull them apart. Laurence is knee-deep in a science experiment that, in his group’s view, will save humanity from itself. Patricia, on the other hand, is influenced by her coven who believe that the activities of Laurence’s group are abominable and must be stopped.
Both sides are convinced of their own righteousness and they end up locked in a battle to save the world. Patricia and Laurence are pushed into their own corners on two opposing sides that are trying to destroy each other. Can they find each other again through all the turmoil and hate?
All the Birds in the Sky is a beautiful fusion of fantasy and science fiction that transcends the constraints of literary genre. This novel is fluid, fresh and vastly enjoyable.
Kristyn M. Levis is a freelance writer, author and photographer based in Sydney. She is currently the managing editor of Her Collective and creative director of 3C Digital. Her first novel, The Girl Between Two Worlds, was published in 2016. Book Two, The Girl Between Light and Dark, is set for release May this year.