Charlie Jane Anders
Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.
But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together–to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.
This novel is a very strange blend of urban fantasy, dystopia and science fiction. A quirky unique novel that suffered from a lack of world building but made up for it with eccentric and honest characters.
Patricia and Laurence’s awkward junior high years had me laughing and cringing in equal measure. I think this was one of my favourite parts of the novel. These odd kids thrown together amidst the hell that is, as we know it, junior high. In these moments, balancing friendship with their own feelings of self-worth and loneliness these characters came alive to me. Their junior high years felt rich and authentic, however, once brought forward in time to their lives in San Francisco all the events that followed felt rushed and messy.
The plot, which picks up with Patricia and Laurence now matured and building a life for themselves in San Francisco amid an abundance of natural disasters and hipster coffee shops, portrays the characters on opposite sides of a conflict which pits magic against science. Despite this, very little conflict is actually showcased as part of the novel. This naturally disappointed me, as I would have liked to see the characters pitted against each other in their plight to save the world.
Their gradual descent into a romantic relationship is a large part of this novel and while they were admittedly adorable together I think the focus being placed on rekindling their friendship and then later their relationship caused the novel to suffer in other areas. Despite the fact that the world is crumbling around them, sometimes quite literally, there was no urgency to their actions. As such, I was unmoved by their attempts to save the world or their desperation to do so. However, even amid my criticism I have to praise the author for crafting dynamic characters who easily drew me into their struggles.