Charlie Jane Anders – All The Birds In The Sky Audiobook
Patricia and Laurence are two teenagers who feel bad about themselves and marginalized. The first is a witch able to talk to animals and considered by her relatives as her comrades as a freak of premiere. the second is a small computer genius capable of building a watch capable of moving forward in time (two seconds, but still …) or of developing Artificial Intelligence in his closet. Despite their differences, a beautiful friendship will be born between these two heroes who, each in their own way, will do everything to save our planet from its inevitable destruction. Rewarded in 2017 by the Nebula Prize and the Locus Prize for best fantasy novel,novel Charlie Jane Anders’ is rather atypical. Full of good ideas and carried by a convincing duo, the book remains difficult to understand and appreciate. The fault in particular with the way in which the author built his plot which one struggles during more than half of the novel to find a direction. The work is divided into several parts which each correspond to different stages in the life of the characters. The first, dedicated to their childhood, is relatively short and serves to lay the foundations of their two personalities and career paths: Patricia suddenly learns that she is able to talk to animals, while Laurence discovers a passion for new technologies. So far all is well, and we can not help but be intrigued by this promising mix of fantasy and science fiction. The second part is also interesting, but much too long. Our two characters are now teenagers, a very difficult period for both of them who suffer the taunts and mistreatment of their high school friends. We then witness the birth of their relationship, distrust gradually giving way to curiosity and then to affection. If this aspect of the story is certainly interesting, the author does at times too much, multiplying certain types of scenes without this serving neither the plot nor the development of the characters. This is particularly the case of the harassment of the two teenagers which is staged an incalculable number of times (for once their comrades are really inventive!).
You end up being anxious to move on, and that’s when the third part finally arrives. And it is only then that the plot is set up! Yes because before that we must admit that apart from the tortured friendship relationship between Patricia and Laurence, the story did not really have a guideline. We then discover that our planet is not in the best of its form to the point that it is likely to disappear in the years to come. While natural disasters are increasing dangerously, Patricia and Laurence tear each other apart, each belonging to a group of individuals convinced of having found THE solution to save humanity. And of course, these two solutions are mutually exclusive. The plot is far from uninteresting, only the elements on which it is based fall a bit like a hair on the soup. No mention, for example, of any climatic problems (or in a really very anecdotal way) which could have allowed the reader to better understand the context. Same thing for the love story between the two characters who play it a bit like “When Harry meets Sally”: it’s been pages and pages that we guess that these two will end up confessing. their feeling, without anything happening and then, suddenly, without further explanation, both have a sort of epiphany and presto, here they are as a couple! In addition to this late installation of the plot, we can regret the multiplication of sub-plots or false tracks which have only very anecdotally relationship with the common thread. This is particularly the case with the enigma of the tree and Patricia’s contacts with birds. This is also the case of the assassin Theodolphus whose interest I have a hard time understanding as his role is meaningless. We see it at the beginning (which allows the author to mention the existence of a sect of assassins whose role will never be explained here either), then it disappears… before coming back… and again be sidelined until the end! In addition to their lack of usefulness, these “false leads” contribute to giving a rough side to the novel which too often gives the impression of going all over the place without knowing its destination well. The end is also quite disappointing because evacuated much too quickly.
All this is all the more unfortunate that the novel does not lack interesting elements. The author dwells on important themes that she exploits effectively. It is a question of marginality, of the suffering it generates, but also of friendship, sacrifice, loneliness … The ecological dimension is for its part too little exploited since it is content to serve as a springboard for the intrigue. without really questioning our way of life or our relationship with nature. On the other hand, the links established by the author between fantasy and science fiction, magic and machine, are approached with more subtlety. the mix of the two genres is a little disturbing at the beginning, but you get used to it and it opens up interesting perspectives while creating a special atmosphere. The protagonists are for their part quite sympathetic, in particular because they cultivate their differences and suffer from it: her by his strange behavior, him because of his passion which earned him to be labeled as the “nerd geek”. The author manages to move us without difficulty with this touching story of friendship, even though we see the romantic side coming from afar. We could just regret the strong tendency of the characters to pose as a martyr or to feel sorry for their fate, which can end up annoying. The secondary characters are on the other hand very little exploited: we know their name and what they do for a living, but for the vast majority of them it stops there. suddenly, I have a little trouble understanding the interest of staging them (except perhaps just to increase the number of extras …). Patricia’s wizarding friends are a little more present, but, despite their strangeness, do not prove to be more complex than the others. A word, to finish, on the style: Charlie Jane Anders has a versatile pen that makes reading easier. On the other hand, the dialogues are quite poor and sometimes gives more the impression (contrary to what the back cover stipulates) of reading Marc Levi than Neil Gaiman, (even if I have nothing against the works of Marc Levi ).
” All the birds of the sky ” is an undoubtedly atypical novel, whose main attractions lie both in the relationship maintained between the two heroes, but also in the clever mix proposed here between SF and fantasy. Too bad, however, that the plot is so disjointed and lacks consistency.