And All the Stars by Andrea K. Höst
Published: 2012, Self-published
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic
Source: PurchasedGoodreads · Amazon · Barnes & Noble
“There's no way to do more than guess what would have happened if Fisher Charteris and Madeleine Cost met one day in a world which had never feared dust, any more than we can be certain of surviving two years, or two days. I can't speak to what-ifs, but I know I will always be glad to have been here in this moment with you.”
I haven’t read many works of science fiction (although this is something I’m working to improve), nor have I read many self-published books. It’s not that I have anything against self-published books, but I find it’s very difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to say. I had seen this book mentioned a few times to mostly positive acclaim, however, and, as I said, this fit the bill in my expansion into the sci fi genre.
Madeleine Cost is traveling to an appointment with her cousin Tyler in downtown Sydney, very much preoccupied on the portrait of him she plans on submitting for the Archibald Prize for portraiture, when the world as she knows it changes drastically. So when she wakes up in a ruined St. James Station, covered in purple powder, Maddie is understandably confused. Neither she nor the rest of the world had could anticipated the formation of massive starry spires in major cities. Maddie’s first concern is simply to get out of the station, away from the roots of the Spire there, from the dead and those huddled on the train, looking at dust-covered Maddie as though she is something different, something contaminated.
The fears of those who quarantine themselves away from the purple dust (and dust-covered humans like Maddie) prove to be very much founded in truth. Human body parts that came into contact with the powder either become a starry, night-sky blue or green. Many of those infected humans die, but those who survive are called either Blues or Greens and gain unusual new powers. Against the fear and distrust present within human groups, however, appears a much greater threat, for aliens have decided to enact elaborate supremacy rituals on Earth. And to do so, they need to occupy the bodies of the surviving Blue humans.
Because of her increased exposure to the dust, the majority of Maddie’s body is now blue. That’s made her one of the most powerful Blues and a highly desirable vessel for the conquering aliens. From the beginning, therefore, Maddie is special to a degree that none of the other characters can hope to achieve. Her heightened powers and extra special abilities could have been the downfall in Maddie’s characterization, if Höst was a lesser author. Fortunately that was not the case here. Maddie’s special abilities certainly influence the course of the novel, but they never define her. Through her loyalty to her family and friends, compassion, courage, love of art, and determination to rid the world of alien invaders, readers are able to get a strong sense of Maddie’s character.
The majority of the story revolves around Maddie teaming up with a group of teenage Blues as they work to survive and evade capture in their new reality. Parts of their adventures felt a little corny, as did their self-proclaimed title, The Blue Musketeers. And yet the heart of the story is through the relationships of these teenagers. They argue, crush on one another, make jokes, lie — in other words, they felt like very convincing teenagers to me. The relationship that Maddie and Fisher form is probably my favorite part; it was simultaneously realistic and heart wrenching. I really liked getting to know them, but I do feel like Höst had only begun to scratch the surface of most of their characterizations, in a large part probably due to the novel’s brevity.
For a shorter story all about an ongoing alien invasion, I was also a bit baffled by how much the pages tended to drag. There’s a lot going on in this book, and Höst’s approach seems to be throwing her characters (and readers) in with little advance setup or warning. That’s exactly the situation that Maddie and her friends find themselves in, after all. I would assume that a story so focused on basic survival would have been a little more...intense? I certainly expected this would have kept me on the edge of my seat a little more than it actually did. The plotting just felt a little off to me. That, or perhaps I’m simply not as invested in stories about alien invasions as I would have hoped to be.
What really made reading And All the Stars worth it to me is how very unconventional it is. And I mean that in the best possible way. From the setting, characterizations, exact nuances of the plot, and more, Höst’s story is unlike any that I’ve read before, and that’s something I really appreciated despite the awkward lags in the storyline. And through Maddie and her friends, Höst has created admirable heroes worth rooting for.
Rating: 3 stars