In the aftermath of the 2016 elections, the lead up to November 8th, I had been reading a lot of political history of the latter half of the 20th century. After The Donald won, I needed a change.
While I have often found modern SciFi a bit hard to get into, I steeled myself and asked a High School friend, Chuck Serface for a couple of recommendations. First up was “All the Birds in the Sky” by Charlie Jane Anders, which appeared on my Kindle as if by magic.
That night, when I picked up my Kindle at bedtime, I fell into a trance, reading the entirety of the first “Book” (the novel is broken into 4 “Books” in a fairly natural divisions). I usually nod off after 15 minutes or so, strong praise indeed.
The start of the book begins with two awkward Tweens, who are outcasts at their school, whose families are dysfunctional (in different manners), who form a bond. One, Laurence, a genius, who follows hacker tutorials and builds a 2 second time machine, the other, Patricia, who has a connection to nature, and is a budding magician (or witch).
The story wends and wefts from there through Patricia running away from school, Laurence gaining a seat at a Science and Mathematics school, to their paths crossing in their 20’s in San Francisco, and a hyper story, where an AI that was invented by Laurence in his bedroom closet as a teenager, and gained sentience from chatting with Patricia, is instrumental to saving the world.
The next morning, on the train, something that has never happened, I lost track of time while reading, and almost missed my stop.
The book is engaging, captivating, and a cracking good read. It all works out in the end, but Charlie Jane Anders wields his words like a ninja master, keeping the reader turning the pages, mesmerized.
Some final comments:
I was reading some of the reviews on Amazon. Many/most were accurate and complimentary, but, I have to marvel at how many people, who obviously just didn’t like the book, felt compelled to write short reviews that basically said that it sucked, or it wasn’t their cup of tea. Why bother? I mean if you really had an issue with the book (the suspension of disbelief was too great, or the science bits were too far fetched, or you really prefer more human nature stories, whatever) then explore it. But “it sucks” isn’t helpful.
Why the hate on modern SciFi? Good question. I have tried, but have often found that many of the new masters seem to try too hard. Either the writing seems stilted, or the temptation to use implausible tech. The past masters like John Brunner did the near future brilliantly, or Phillip K. Dick who was masterful at alternate realities, or Robert Heinlein who was a master of the human interest stories, and I cut my teeth on them in my formative years.
But, reconnecting with Chuck (who reads and I think votes for the Hugo awards), is promising to give me hope.