Recent Reading: And All The Stars

Okay, yeah, I finally read my first self-published book. Well, almost my first. Actually my second. The first was okay, more or less, in a decidedly mediocre kind of way. But this one was excellent. I picked it up primarily because of “>this review, by Heidi over at Bunbury in the Stacks. I’d seen a couple other reviews, but this one tipped me over the edge, especially when I happened across an offer of the title in kindle format for 99c. I mean, at that price, there’s no actual risk involved in the purchase, right?

Heidi winds her review up by saying, “I laughed, I teared up, I got very angry, I fist pumped, and I even slow clapped un-ironically, and at the end of the day there isn’t much more you can ask for from a book.”

Yeah, I feel the same way!

Here’s the back cover copy for AND ALL THE STARS:

Come for the apocalypse.
Stay for cupcakes.
Die for love.

Madeleine Cost is working to become the youngest person ever to win the Archibald Prize for portraiture. Her elusive cousin Tyler is the perfect subject: androgynous, beautiful, and famous. All she needs to do is pin him down for the sittings.

None of her plans factored in the Spires: featureless, impossible, spearing into the hearts of cities across the world – and spraying clouds of sparkling dust into the wind.

Is it an alien invasion? Germ warfare? They are questions everyone on Earth would like answered, but Madeleine has a more immediate problem. At Ground Zero of the Sydney Spire, beneath the collapsed ruin of St James Station, she must make it to the surface before she can hope to find out if the world is ending.

I LOVE that three-line teaser at the beginning! And it’s even accurate, because there ARE cupcakes, though possibly not all that front-and-center, but still.

This back cover copy is inaccurate only in that it implies that Maddie’s struggle to get to the surface will be this huge big thing. Well, no. She’s out right away, after which we find out that the world might in fact be ending, more or less.

I really enjoyed this alien invasion. I don’t know what to compare it to. It sure wasn’t your ordinary vision of an alien invasion, presuming you have a vision of what an ‘ordinary’ alien invasion should be like. Anyway, there are all these twists! You say to yourself: Okay, THIS is what they have to deal with. And then everything changes. That happens more than once. I can’t believe anybody would see these twists coming, and yet the most unexpected twist IS foreshadowed, you just miss it in the action.

I really loved the characterization, too. You know what this book reminded me of? John Marsden’s TOMORROW series, that starts with TOMORROW WHEN THE WAR BEGAN. Which is pretty impressive right there, because that is a fabulous, fabulous series. And it’s not the Australian setting which makes Höst’s book seem like a natural companion to Marsden’s series: it’s the great job writing a bunch of teenagers striving to save the world. Except Höst does it all in one book, and her epilogue shows a happier ending. I don’t mean the whole thing is happy-happy-joy-joy, because no. There are certainly dark moments. But overall, you are going to find that this story has a very positive vibe.

Plus, the writing is excellent. Lots of wonderful dialogue — I hardly know what to pick. I laughed out loud when one character says shakily to another, “I almost wish she’d come at us yelling ‘Brainnnsss!’ Then I could justify running away.” No kidding, Noi, that was one creepy lady.

There are lots of wonderful moments where the characters play off one another; nice, vivid descriptions that don’t slow down the action; just plain good writing all through. No need to be worried about typos in this self-pubbed title: I noticed four missing commas and that’s it. Pretty impressive given the layer and layers of line editing it takes to clean up a manuscript.

So, anyway, yeah, this is a great book. On her site, Andrea Höst says she self-pubbed because “I wasn’t able to get anyone else to publish me.” Seriously, that’s amazing, and not in a good way. If you drop over at her site and read the “gory details” of her interaction with an unnamed publisher, well. I mean. I seem to be literally speechless.

I didn’t read that many 2012 books, and I think I will in fact nominate this one for the Hugo. I don’t know that it’s seminal or anything (what DOES make a novel ‘important’?), but it’s very good, it’s SF, and I think it would be nice to go ahead and set a precedent of having a really good self-pubbed title on the ballot for a major award.

The only unfortunate thing is that I now have EVEN MORE BOOKS to add to the TBR shelves. What with Höst’s backlist, and Martha Wells’ backlist, well. I don’t think I’ll be running short of reading material any time soon.

Okay, that’s the last book I plan to read until I get this ms. revision ALL THE WAY DONE.

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