In middle school, neither Patricia Delfine nor Laurence Armstead are cool. Patricia starts to develop witchy powers and Laurence invents a super computer in his closet, but despite their differences, they find friendship for a short time before their paths diverge. In present day San Francisco, they reunite as the planet falls apart around them. Both are part of a secret group to save the world, one through technology, one through magic, and a force larger than either of them is determined to bring them together.

From the editor-in-chief of, All the Birds in the Sky excels at creating a legitimate contemporary setting (both middle school and yupster life) and then plopping talking birds and two-second time machines in the middle of it. It is an experiment in magical realism with the ultimate goal of illustrating that the genres of scifi and fantasy are “two-sides of the same coin”.  Unique in presentation, I appreciate the attempt to transcend genre because I haven’t read anything like this before.

Unfortunately, the genre-transcending narrative translates into reader confusion throughout most of the book. In some scenes, the plot is whimsical and cute, but in others it’s uncomfortably dark and tragic. In addition, I never fully connect to Patricia and Laurence as kids, and am even turned off as adults, so I am not fully invested in their dynamic friendship or eventual love story.

Recommended as an ambitious scfi/fantasy mash-up with a lot of relevant commentary, if slightly confusing and occasionally meandering.

“We don’t need better emotional communication from machines. We need people to have more empathy. The reason the Uncanny Valley exists is because humans created it to put other people into. It’s how we justify killing each other.”