All The Birds in The Sky

Fairy­tales meet worm­holes

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Reviews - You can read “Six Months, Three Days” on­line at Tor.com – and de­bate the end­ing in the com­ments: http://bit.ly/char­liesix.

re­leased 26 Jan­uary 432 pages | Pa­per­back/ebook Au­thor Char­lie Jane an­ders Pub­lisher Ti­tan Books

io9 Ed­i­tor-in-Chief Char­lie Jane An­ders has been pub­lish­ing fic­tion for some years, no­tably her Hugo Award-win­ning nov­el­ette of clair­voy­ant ro­mance “Six Months, Three Days”. Both that story and this, An­ders’ first genre novel, fea­ture a pair of pro­tag­o­nists who find them­selves on op­po­site sides of a moral and meta­phys­i­cal de­bate.

In “Six Months…”, Judy fore­sees mul­ti­ple pos­si­ble fu­tures, and be­lieves that she and her boyfriend re­tain free will; Doug, how­ever, sees only one out­come of their re­la­tion­ship, and fa­tal­is­ti­cally em­braces ev­ery as­pect of it. All The Birds In The Sky fol­lows na­ture-lov­ing witch Pa­tri­cia and sci­en­tist sa­vant Lau­rence from their shared school­days as so­cially-awk­ward out­casts to adult lives in San Francisco spent try­ing, in sep­a­rate and con­flict­ing ways, to save the world.

Pa­tri­cia and Lau­rence are the heart of the novel. Their di­ver­gent world­views and as­pi­ra­tions, grounded in their per­son­al­i­ties and ex­pe­ri­ences, set the tone, and de­spite the chaos around them – su­per-storms, wars, dis­ap­pear­ing bees – their hap­haz­ard, or­ganic friend­ship re­mains a touch­stone. The pair are sur­rounded by mot­ley crews of sci­en­tists and spell­cast­ers, who of­fer a con­vinc­ing pic­ture of how group­think, con­vic­tion and des­per­a­tion can force well-mean­ing peo­ple into ex­treme po­si­tions. This isn’t a novel about science and magic be­ing fun­da­men­tally at odds; rather, it is an ex­plo­ration of the sto­ries we tell our­selves about why we act the way we do, and the lim­its of in­di­vid­ual abil­ity to bring about change.

There is some un­even­ness: the early stages over-in­dulge in fairy­tale logic, giv­ing us par­ents (and schools) whose hos­til­ity is car­toon­ishly over the top, and some of the nar­ra­tive tran­si­tions are bumpy to the point of be­ing con­fus­ing. But this re­mains a highly ab­sorb­ing and en­joy­able read. Nic Clarke

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