All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the SkyLaurence—not Larry, never Larry—invented a two-second time machine that he wore on his wrist in school. When he ran away from his parents and boarded a bus to watch a rocket launch, the scientists recognized his genius and never forgot him.

Patricia got lost in the woods while running away from her scary older sister who threatened to kill the injured bird that Patricia was holding. She ended up in the center of the forest, talking to the gigantic, old tree and all the birds in it, who were busy with a parliament meeting at the time.

So, the witch and the tech genius met at school and formed a friendship that was at least partially founded on mutual protection from the school bullies. They parted ways as they grew to adulthood and perfected their skills, and then met again at a critical moment for the future of the planet. Who can say whether the whole plot was concocted by Laurence’s AI invention, CH@NG3M3– or, as it preferred when it attained sentience, Peregrine?

This adult science fiction title just won the 2016 Nebula Award for best novel. It is my favorite type of sci-fi: not the kind with rockets and space (The Martian is a notable exception), but rather a twisty tale of technology gone awry, exploring how our own progress might yield unforeseen consequences. Blend in the fantasy line, further complicating the plot with humanity’s efforts to either conquer or cooperate with nature, add a splash of romance, and you have a winning combination. Anders’ characters are sharply drawn, Laurence and Patricia are both sympathetic, and one wild character in particular was literally fabulous. The pacing was luxuriant in the beginning, and then blockbuster-fast at the conclusion. With strong language and sexual content, this one is not for kids.

Recommended.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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