8 November 2016

Friends: A Review of All The Birds In The Sky, Charlie Jane Anders

Operatic singing meanders down the staircase from my child's room as he negotiates his world through lego, all while the hubby smugly slumbers. As the house dances with the rhythms of Tuesday morning, my thoughts slip to friendship. My particular slant to friend bonding is a response to the giggles; if you can follow my joke, and even better, best it, I am yours. While I accumulate new peeps, and meander out of the lives of others, only a few have ever been like-minded readers. Not that someone I adore must shine their geek light as brightly as I, but it is rather odd that my overarching passion for SF books has always been a solo pursuit. 

Always is so defiant in it's absoluteness that as I finish All The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, I realize that my proclivity to fantastical tales is thanks in large part to a teacher friend. The life of an ELS instructor is an odd bag of crazy; the love affair with the place fluctuates from intensely hateful to achingly glorious. Self-perceived as the outsider, colleagues become fast friends, even family within weeks of meeting. Hence my clandestine friendship with a punk-ass girl from Portland, who brought the fun to a small, Japanese rice-village but a wide appreciation for American surrealistic lit. 

Remarkably there was a time that I had not read Katherine Dunn's Geek Love, John Kennedy Toole's posthumous delight,  A Confederacy of Dunces, or the poetic compactness of Lewis Nordan's, Lightening Song. Transecting my life for less than a year, this friend directed me down a path of reading that honed my appreciation of novels like All The Birds In The Sky.

Informed she is a witch at a young age, Patricia progresses through the humiliations of teenage-hood despairing in her inability to unlock her full potential. Was that night she was lost in the woods talking to the birds real, or was it her imagination trying to escape her tragic childhood? Lawrence in the meantime lives a life of constant degradation, the classic nerd, he is bullied relentlessly, eventually creating a portable time machine that pushes him into the future by 2 seconds. The small victory of avoiding the moment the egg was too spatter provides his only respite. Reluctant friends, Patricia and Lawrence move through their high school days trying to salvage some dignity from the vitriol that is slung their way. 

The harbinger of the apocalypse, All The Birds In The Sky masquerades as a coming of age story. Patricia and Lawrence shall bring forth the end of days and so they most die. Charlie Jane Anders has the talented ability to weave words into a tapestry of images. This novel ensnarled me, reluctantly unfolding, inspiring my imagination, even questioning my perceptions, all the while firmly entertaining me. It should be rightly shelved with all the fantastically mundane American lit that I have come to love. There is something quite satisfying reading a novel that puts the reader slightly on edge, slightly unhinged as the story begins to reveal itself. All The Birds In The Sky dystopian message is akin to Margaret Atwood's deeply disturbing MaddAddam trilogy, simply offered in a softer package.

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