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


Solid, inventive, well-characterized YA science fiction. By “science fiction,” I mean “cool powers and alien invasion,” not “paper-thin dystopia in which the government’s main concern appears to be micro-managing the love triangles of teenagers.”

Madeleine, an aspiring artist, visits Sydney to paint her cousin Tyler’s portrait. Tyler is a famous cross-dressing actor, and probably my favorite character in the book despite his comparatively small part.

Her plans are stymied by an alien invasion. Starry towers rise up from the cities, and dust falls from the sky. Some people are given powers, others strange vulnerabilities, and still yet others are possessed by aliens. Stars shine from Madeleine’s skin, and she gets together with other teenagers to learn to use their powers and try to save the world.

The opening sequence, in which Madeleine tries to escape from a wrecked subway station, gets the book off to a great start. I stalled out for a while in a slow sequence in which the teenagers are interminably holed up in a hotel, but the story picks up enormously after that.

Host has a lot of respect for teenagers, and I liked the unabashedly heroic tone of the story. Rather than taking the apocalypse as an excuse for an orgy of rape and cannibalism, Host’s characters band together, form a community, explore their new relationships, take the time to make plans that make sense, and risk their lives for a cause they believe in. It’s engaging, uplifting, and, by the end, surprisingly moving.

This isn’t a flawless novel. Some events are confusing or poorly set-up, some of the dialogue is clunky, and I read the explanation of the alien invasion three times and I still don’t understand it. Too many characters are introduced in too-quick succession, and I didn’t realize that “Emily” and “Millie” were the same person with a nickname until I got to the cast of characters at the end. The sequence at the end with Gavin was really confusing, too. The book could have used one more rewrite.

However, so could at least half of the professionally edited YA novels I’ve read recently, many of which have glaring continuity errors, nonsensical motivations, ridiculous worldbuilding, unlikable characters, and, often, proofreading errors and poor formatting. In some cases, they are nothing but a string of action sequences strung together by plot holes.

And All the Stars isn’t Code Name Verity. But it’s imaginative, well-thought-out, and heartfelt. I will definitely read more of Host’s books.

Giant spoilers lurk below.

Read more... )

And All the Stars. Only $4.99!

Host self-publishes because of the glacial pace of traditional publishing, which got one of her novels stuck in review for TEN YEARS.

But there may be other reasons as well, which have nothing to do with the quality of her writing. Again, I'm not saying that she's one of the absolute best YA writers out there. But based on this, she's certainly one of the better ones. And when I say "better ones," I mean "compared to all the YA novels I've been reading that come out from major publishers," not "compared to the slush pile."

Speaking only of American publishing, which is the only publishing I know anything about, I can see why this novel would be a hard sell. It is not set in America, it involves aliens, and the tone and style are different from most YA sf I've read recently. (And there are gay characters, though in the supporting cast.) For a first-time author, those could be insurmountable obstacles.

M. C. A. Hogarth has a thought-provoking article on those issues. Maybe the audience for books about middle-aged female Hispanic space Marines is small. Maybe the audience for psychic Australian teenagers fighting aliens is small. But I'm glad that e-publishing makes it possible now for those books to find their audience.
Most Gratuitously Depressing Novel (involving an apocalypse)

I Who Have Never Known Men, by Jacqueline Harpman )

Most Gratuitously Depressing Novel (not involving an apocalypse)

Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse )
Most Gratuitously Depressing Short Fiction (involving an apocalypse)

Most Gratuitously Depressing Short Fiction (not involving an apocalypse)

A Touch of Lavender, by Megan Lindholm, and The Necklace, by Guy de Maupassant )
Most Gratuitously Depressing Dramatic Work (involving an apocalypse)

Wolf's Rain )
Most Gratuitously Depressing Dramatic Work (not involving an apocalypse)

In the Company of Men )
Most Gratuitously Depressing Novel (involving an apocalypse)

I Who Have Never Known Men, by Jacqueline Harpman )

Most Gratuitously Depressing Novel (not involving an apocalypse)

Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse )
Most Gratuitously Depressing Short Fiction (involving an apocalypse)

Most Gratuitously Depressing Short Fiction (not involving an apocalypse)

A Touch of Lavender, by Megan Lindholm, and The Necklace, by Guy de Maupassant )
Most Gratuitously Depressing Dramatic Work (involving an apocalypse)

Wolf's Rain )
Most Gratuitously Depressing Dramatic Work (not involving an apocalypse)

In the Company of Men )
I started printing my memoir last night. I continued at 8:00 am today. I'm still printing the thing. With my advance check I will buy a new printer that isn't slow, evil, and insane. You don't want to know.

Since I'm stuck here apparently indefinitely, I will amuse myself by reprinting my thoughts on this o/v/e/r/r/a/t/e/d controversial anime series.

First report, from about half-way through the show:

As most of you probably know already, the Earth is under attack by giant things called angels, which look like robots, but later developments suggest that they're living, presumably bioengineered things. The first two attacks killed half the population; fourteen years later, everyone's hunkered down in fortified cities.

The only defense against the angels is the Evas-- giant robots (three so far) which can only be piloted by certain kids born nine months after the first attack. The kids are Shinji, a passive boy who's understandably depressed because his asshole father, who runs the program, doesn't love him; Rei, a girl who I suspect is either a clone or an android, because she has no past, no emotions, and no personality; and Asuka, another girl who's an annoying brat.

Despite the almost complete lack of likable characters, the story is gripping enough to keep me watching. Actually, the story per se is only so-so, but the hints of a larger plot occurring out of sight are quite intriguing: What are the angels and what do they want? Is someone sending them? Are the Evas based on angel technology? Are the Evas alive? What's so special about the kid pilots? Who or what is Rei? Is Shinji's horrible father plotting the end of the world, and why? Etc.

It's not uncommon in sf for the background to be more interesting than the foreground, but this show is a particularly notable case.

That being said, and admitting that I'll watch to the end to see how it comes out, I have to ask: what is it that's so special about this show, again?

It's supposed to be a dark, intense classic, but so far it hasn't been all that dark and intense-- angsty, yes, but not as much as a bunch of the other shows I've checked out-- and nowhere near as intense as its obvious comparison, that other story of kids fighting a war against aliens because their abusive-parents-by-proxy don't want to get their hands dirty, Ender's Game.

The animation is OK, nothing more, though some of the character, angel, and Eva designs are pretty good.

The weirdness quotient, so far, is pretty low. Actually, it's nil except for the strange use of Christian imagery and the presence of a penguin (the obligatory cute animal, here totally out of place).

Second report, of the complete show:

At about the halfway mark, the series switched from a somewhat generic sf show about angsty kids piloting giant robots called evangelions for an organization called NERV to save their post-apocalyptic world from invaders to a really interesting and weird sf show in which all the elements noted above are called into doubt, and Christian imagery begins to run amok.

Huge spoilers, including details of the worst ending of anything ever.

Read more... )
I started printing my memoir last night. I continued at 8:00 am today. I'm still printing the thing. With my advance check I will buy a new printer that isn't slow, evil, and insane. You don't want to know.

Since I'm stuck here apparently indefinitely, I will amuse myself by reprinting my thoughts on this o/v/e/r/r/a/t/e/d controversial anime series.

First report, from about half-way through the show:

As most of you probably know already, the Earth is under attack by giant things called angels, which look like robots, but later developments suggest that they're living, presumably bioengineered things. The first two attacks killed half the population; fourteen years later, everyone's hunkered down in fortified cities.

The only defense against the angels is the Evas-- giant robots (three so far) which can only be piloted by certain kids born nine months after the first attack. The kids are Shinji, a passive boy who's understandably depressed because his asshole father, who runs the program, doesn't love him; Rei, a girl who I suspect is either a clone or an android, because she has no past, no emotions, and no personality; and Asuka, another girl who's an annoying brat.

Despite the almost complete lack of likable characters, the story is gripping enough to keep me watching. Actually, the story per se is only so-so, but the hints of a larger plot occurring out of sight are quite intriguing: What are the angels and what do they want? Is someone sending them? Are the Evas based on angel technology? Are the Evas alive? What's so special about the kid pilots? Who or what is Rei? Is Shinji's horrible father plotting the end of the world, and why? Etc.

It's not uncommon in sf for the background to be more interesting than the foreground, but this show is a particularly notable case.

That being said, and admitting that I'll watch to the end to see how it comes out, I have to ask: what is it that's so special about this show, again?

It's supposed to be a dark, intense classic, but so far it hasn't been all that dark and intense-- angsty, yes, but not as much as a bunch of the other shows I've checked out-- and nowhere near as intense as its obvious comparison, that other story of kids fighting a war against aliens because their abusive-parents-by-proxy don't want to get their hands dirty, Ender's Game.

The animation is OK, nothing more, though some of the character, angel, and Eva designs are pretty good.

The weirdness quotient, so far, is pretty low. Actually, it's nil except for the strange use of Christian imagery and the presence of a penguin (the obligatory cute animal, here totally out of place).

Second report, of the complete show:

At about the halfway mark, the series switched from a somewhat generic sf show about angsty kids piloting giant robots called evangelions for an organization called NERV to save their post-apocalyptic world from invaders to a really interesting and weird sf show in which all the elements noted above are called into doubt, and Christian imagery begins to run amok.

Huge spoilers, including details of the worst ending of anything ever.

Read more... )
.

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