2017 Hugo Reading:
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Written by Natalie Luhrs

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June 20, 2017

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders had been on my list since it came out, but I’d been putting off reading it because I found the plot summary on the blurb to be off-putting. Yes, this is a story about a witch and a technologist who are childhood friends and often diametrically opposite in worldview, but for me, that describes a level of conflict between those characters that simply wasn’t there.

I wouldn’t say that Patricia and Laurence were friends as children, not exactly. They were more like two misfits who found each other. And their respective childhoods were utterly vile: their parents were well-meaning abusers (this rang a bit too true for me) and they didn’t get much a respite at school, either. Even while I was full-body cringing through the first third of the book, I couldn’t put it down—which I know sounds like a backhanded compliment, but that level of awkward and trying desperately to stay within constantly shifting parental boundaries was incredibly resonant for me. As was the whole thing where Laurence enlisted Patricia to lie to his parents—I may have done that a few times as a teen, too.

I did find my interest flagging after Patricia and Laurence went their separate ways; I felt as if the plot meandered a bit through the middle section, as if I was just reading about the everyday adventures of these two characters which, while interesting, was not compelling. Especially because they were still stuck in abusive situations: the witches constantly admonishing Patricia about Aggrandizement while never explaining what it is and the secretive billionaire funding the tech organization for which Laurence works.

Once Laurence and Patricia encounter each other again—aided by their Caddies, a kind of smart device that functions on serendipity—I felt that the story picked up steam all the way through to the conclusion, which I found to be quite satisfying on multiple levels.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to reading more from Anders in the future.

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