All the Birds in the Sky
Charlie Jane Anders
TOR, 2016

All the Birds in the Sky is a science fiction/fantasy book that is actually good science fiction and good fantasy -- a rare beast indeed. It tells the story of Patricia, a witch, and Laurence, an inventor, as they advance the frontiers of magic/science, work to save and/or end the world, and perhaps fall in love.

Six-year-old Patricia is trying to save a wounded bird from her sadistic sister when she accidentally stumbles on the living embodiment of nature... or something; the details are not entirely clear. However, it is clear that there is magic in the world and that it has a particular interest in her. This does not end well for her, and between her stupid parents and her evil sister, she ends up pretty much losing touch with the magical world for the next decade.

Laurence has the most boring parents ever, parents who don't notice when he builds a 2-second time machine, don't care about the superintelligent server farm in his closet, and fail to see the point in going to see a rocket launch in person. So he runs away to live with the rocket scientists. This does not work out well, and his parents punish him by sending him to a soul-killing private school, where he meets Patricia.

Patricia and Laurence have nothing in common, aside from being hated by pretty much everyone else, but this proves to be enough, and they become lifelong acquaintances. Laurence tolerates Patricia's attempts to talk to animals (usually), and Patricia is mostly okay with Laurence inventing things at her. Then Laurence is sent to a military high school, Patricia is inducted into Hogwarts, and they discover that the world is dying, and they belong to opposite sides of a battle for the fate of Earth. Which is a bummer, but when has life ever been fair?

This is a dark and silly book, somewhat like The Magicians and somewhat akin to A Night in the Lonesome October. It is full of evil, uncaring, and violent characters in an evil, uncaring, and violent society, but some of these evil characters are mystical ninja assassins who really just want a nice dish of ice cream, some are grumpy birds, and some are Elon Musk. Neither the magic nor the science follows strict rules, but both are done well enough that it doesn't have a Star Trek ad-hockery feel. While I'm not certain this quite fits the mold of comic SF/F, it is often fun and silly, and I would not recommend reading it if you don't enjoy such things. Likewise, if you don't like dark and disastrous, this may not be the book for you, although the main characters offer some redemption.

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