Well, to be honest, All the Birds in the Sky grew very slowly on me. But it did grow on me. I really actually liked it in the end. Let me try to explain.
What this is is many things. It's a book with a lot of very low key jokes about tech culture1 that made me grin on the inside. It's a straight love story, but imo not a bad one. It's about a war between magic slash nature and science, which is like, one of my least favourite tropes, but I didn't hate it, not at all. It's about ethics and being a grown up and how people become bad, maybe. It is set firmly in a time of inescapable climate crisis, so, basically in our now. Also, cute non-evil AI.
To me, it started out incredibly annoying. Not bad, I never thought "this is bad", just "I'm not sure if I want to be reading this, but I sure am vaguely interested". It starts out with a little girl who talks to a boy in the woods and might be a witch, and a little boy who skips school to see a rocket launch, and both are bullied a lot. They become friends, and are very good for each other.
I was at 25% when I first thought "actually, I care about this, I think I'll stick with it". By this point, a lot has happened. Laurence has built a really got chat bot, and Patricia has probably turned it sentient by talking to it, oopsie. They are both in grave danger from a rather annoying and kind of mysterious fellow, the bullying continues, their friendship has had its ups and downs, and Patricia is being framed as a witch. Oopsie.
Then suddenly, everything is much later. Patricia is a young witch living in a flatshare and working a bunch of different jobs. Laurence is a young tech guy working on super futuristic oooh stuff in a diverse team of folks who know what is best for humanity. Their world is still pretty much like nowadays, except for Caddies, which are like tablets with some creepy software that tries to manage your day, but actually helpful and unintrusive. And exteme weather conditions have become the kind of news you expect.
Patricia and Laurence keep meeting up by ~accident~ that is totally not controlled by a benevolent AI, of course. They have all these terribly awkward conversations, where they just fundamentally disagree on a thing, but can kind of figure it out. Laurence learns a bunch from Patricia, but you know, he's a techbro at heart, albeit a nice one, so things move faster than he can challenge his believes around his grand plans for the whole world.
When climate stuff continues to be bad, both have their obligations towards saving like the planet or humanity or whatever each one's priorities are, and of course, everything escalates horribly, but yeah, it kind of works out despite the horrors.
And I'm trying and failing to explain how, despite having so many elements that I usually dislike, I really ended up liking this thing. It's the tech culture jokes. It's the obnoxious details of witch society. And I totally enjoyed the everyday-ness of the story. And that never is ever really only right or only wrong, only good or only bad, they both do both terrible and really nice stuff, etc etc. And I guess a wholesome-feeling climate apocalypse story isn't bad to read, either.
Seriously, I have to quote two of these.
First, at a party, "The Caddy engineers had gotten into a fist fight with the open-source Artichoke BSD developers on the balcony."
And then, in some hackspace iirc, "She constructed some kind of wireless-enabled burrowing robot that could hide small objects where you'd never find them without the right PGP key."
Hah. I love those. They're so clearly poking fun at stuff, but not in a mean way. I got the same feeling I got when reading Douglas Adams' lovingly hateful writing about computers in Dirk Gently, just without the hate, more like, a deep and loving exasperation, and like, fewer pages of it.