Author: Andrea K. Höst
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult, PoC, LGBT
Publication date: October 1 2012
Paperback: 193 pages
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 .
Stand alone or series: Stand alone (but could be a series?)
How did I get this book: Requested a review copy from Netgalley
Why did I read this book: I’ve read this author’s Champion of the Rose and despite a few issues with the story, I thought it was a superior novel in many ways. I have been meaning to read more of her books (especially considering the good reviews I have seen around) so I thought I should give this a try.
And All the Stars caught me completely by surprise to the point where I must start this review with simply a: Wowza, that is one great Scifi YA book. A warning: it is impossible to talk about the book without including minor spoilers so if you don’t want to know details just know that in a nutshell: this is a good Scifi story featuring multi-racial characters with diverse sexual orientation (including a cross-dresser) in a complex ensemble cast that form a kick-ass team to fight for their lives. If you don’t mind minor details spoiled, please carry on reading.
When Madeleine comes to in the wreckage of St James Station, surrounded by fallen victims of whatever it was that destroyed everything around her and covered in weird (alien?) dust her only thought is to get up and to get out. Survive first, ponder later. Making her way to her cousin’s apartment in central Sydney is easier than she thought (as she walks through the empty streets, people barricaded behind closed doors and windows gasp in terror at her obvious exposure to…aliens?). Her parents seem to be safe back home and so Madeleine is alone in the apartment watching TV and the terrifying coverage of the Spires that spear through (up?) several cities across the globe, spreading clouds of dust. She wonders: what will be the effects of her close encounter with the dust? And so, the waiting game begins.
Then it hits her. The overwhelming hunger. The surge of power followed by paralysis. And the blue patches of velvety skin and impossible constellations that cover most of her body now.
With nothing to lose, Madeleine ventures outside in search of food and comes across a chef named Noi (also with patches of blue skin) who offers her warm scones, tea and company. They team up to find other Blues and come up with a plan for survival as the owners of the Spires finally decide to reveal their intentions.
Most of And All the Stars happens in the first few months of an Apocalyptic Earth in the first stages of contact with alien civilisations as a small group of teenagers band together to survive. As such, the book absolutely excels at exploring those first moments, the different possible reactions of each individual and how people cope with the scenarios vividly presented in the novel. Although it often shows what is happening in the world, the story is mostly confined to how those events affect this small group of people surrounding Madeleine and Noi – a group that comes to be called the Blue Musketeers. Because it is more of a character-driven than plot-driven story, And All the Stars is an intimate story of friendship, love, growing up and survival. The bond formed between Madeleine and Noi is beautiful; the ensemble cast fight together and each person contributes differently to the dynamics of the group meaning that there are no real heroes or heroines here although Madeleine is the clear point-of-view protagonist. She is an artist, a painter and her journey of self-discovery is really interesting – from her self-image to the firm acceptance of what her art means to her. What kind of respect she expects from those she loves with regards to the way she connects with her art when she is so absorbed by what she is doing that nothing else matters. And finally, there is also romance – romance that develops slowly but surely and which has truly heart-wrenching moments as well as some seriously great exploration of what it means to fall in love.
I loved how Madeleine accepts her feelings and her sexual awakening easily and how it was acknowledged that maybe “this is the end of the world, let’s party before it is too late” reaction to what was happening can be a part of it. I also loved the complexity of this love story and how it is equal parts wrong and right – and what it means that is wrong and right at the same time (I am being so cryptic as I don’t want to spoil too much. You will thank me for it). And kudos to the author for writing a lovely-yet-extremely-clumsy first-time sex scene that pulled at my heart strings.
Of course, this choice of what drives the story means that I felt that book lacked a certain gravitas when it came to the larger issues about alien invasion – like for example, even though the aliens look very different from humans, there is a clear shared…emotional sensitivity. For all that the aliens’ plan for Earth was completely messed-up and unfair, I never felt they were completely alien. Furthermore, And All the Stars has very abrupt, awkward transitions between certain scenes which led to a feeling of rushing under-developed storylines; and the resolution was perhaps far too easy considering the stakes involved.
Those things said, this is the second Andrea K Horst novel that I read and just like Champion of the Rose, And All the Stars features a creative, very unique premise. Given the amount of horrible stories one hears, it is hard to believe hers are all self-published novels. The writing is excellent, the number of copy-editing mistakes minor (and nothing that I haven’t found many times in traditionally published novels) and the characters are well-written, believable and so naturally mirroring the real diverse world we live in, it makes one want to read ALL THE BOOKS (just recently bought her Touchstone trilogy, which I hear, is amazing).
And despite being covered in cheese, the epilogue was so completely endearing, I ate it all up with gusto. Highly recommended.
Notable Quotes/ Parts:
“Hell.” He moved, shifted to lay beside her. “I didn’t – sorry, I didn’t think I’d be quite that pathetic.” He propped himself up and looked at her worriedly, his hair ruffled, face flushed. “Did I hurt you?”
“No.” Feeling less overcome, Madeleine touched his shoulder. “It’s okay. Though I’d like it if you spent some more time doing things to my breasts. They’ve never felt quite so real before.”
He spluttered into laughter, and they held each other and shook, helpless hilarity. That turned to enthusiastic kissing, pressed together, legs tangling, then relaxing back to take a breath.
“I had pictured this very romantic,” Fisher said. “Slow, and measured
and…well, lasting longer. Magical, not farcical.” Chagrin competed with amusement. “I would be very glad to continue to prove the existence of your breasts. And I am, if nothing else, an extremely good study”.
Rating: I was wavering between 7 and 8 but the many positives totally trump the few negatives that I will go with
Reading Next: Goblin Secrets by William Alexander
Buy the Book: (click on the links to purchase)
Ebook available for kindle US, kindle UK & smashwords, kobo
AndreaOctober 16, 2012 at 5:56 am
Glad you enjoyed it Ana. ^^
EstaraOctober 16, 2012 at 6:03 am
*waves Booksmugglers and Andrea Höst forever flag happily*
Wohoo, Touchstone Trilogy, too ^^. You know, Ana, your Champion of the Rose review alerted me to Andrea in the first place, so a thousand thanks!
And, and Fisher and and [spoiler] and Pan and Noi and Emily and Madeleine’s cousin and that beach testing scene which turned out so badly but was so fun at the time and the dancing in the hotel and the almost kite flying bits and…
LiOctober 16, 2012 at 6:43 am
Ooooh, I do hope you get around to the Touchstone books soon – I’d love to hear your take on them.
As for AND ALL THE STARS, there was this point where I actually gasped out loud. It’s rare for a story to really take me by surprise nowadays, but that’s what I love about Andrea Höst’s books – they’re fresh and original.
Linda WOctober 16, 2012 at 6:44 am
Wow. I’m glad to see more sci-fi books. The premise of And All the Stars sounds great!
Anya @ On Starships and DragonwingsOctober 16, 2012 at 6:57 am
Oo, thanks for this review! I grabbed this book from Netgalley, because who wouldn’t with that cover! And am now very excited to get to it 😀
Aimee KuzenskiOctober 16, 2012 at 8:40 am
I picked this up immediately. Not only did it hit a few of my personal happy buttons with just the summary, but the review made it irresistible when it included the quote. I think just about anyone can relate to that bit, and first time sex scenes are rarely that honest and real.
Sarah N.October 17, 2012 at 10:26 am
Sounds good, but I’m leery because a bunch of the reviews I’ve seen are throwing out “there’s a transvestite; they’re so diverse!” given that transvestite is now generally considered an offensive term because of the negative connotations it carries (some people are okay with it, but some people do find it offensive; I-don’t-speak-for-everyone disclaimer). What exactly are we talking here?
AnaOctober 17, 2012 at 10:56 am
Sarah N – I did not mean to sound offensive or dismissive and I feel I might have failed in conveying my meaning. I didn’t know that “transvestite” was considered an offensive term, should I use cross-dresser?
Basically, what I meant is that the story reflects the world we live in the way that it has a diverse group of characters and by that I mean, beyond white, straight. I don’t think it is exploitative in any way. Tyler is the cross-dresser – he is a man (male bodied, and as far as I understood male-identified) who wears women clothes. I am not sure what else I could tell you but I hope you pick up the book.
ETA: I replaced transvestite with cross-dresser. I also wanted to add that Tyler is not there as “wallpaper” or to fill the diversity bingo. He is a huge part of the story, he is Madeleine’s cousin and they care deeply for each other.
EstaraOctober 17, 2012 at 11:27 am
Wow, I didn’t realise that transvestite is carrying negative connotations. I basically use the word because I have watched and listened to Eddie Izzard’s stand-up programmes so much and that is how he describes himself.
I’ll change that in my GR review as well, Sarah.
Sarah N.October 17, 2012 at 11:32 am
It’s not a problem. Cross-dresser is the more acceptable term nowadays. Transvestite is generally considered, um, more sexual and thus more specific, plus from a historical standpoint, it has far more negative connotations. If Eddie Izzard wants to use it for himself, he can (the beauty of reclamation), but yeah, I would never call a character a transvestite unless it was already used in the book and even then I’d be leery of the author themselves not being up-to-date on cross-dressing and trans* issues.
EstaraOctober 18, 2012 at 1:12 pm
Thanks for explaining some more. I would like my reviews to a) not offend other readers and b) not misrepresent what I understood of the author’s message, so finding out about potentially problematic wording is a boon.
AndreaOctober 26, 2012 at 3:48 am
The closest word to describe Tyler would be “pangender”.
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