Thursday, October 4, 2012
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.
First things first--Höst is one of my top five favorite authors. She has not, to date, let me down at all in any of her books I've read. And I've read practically all of them. As such I'm a bit of a fangirl when I talk about her to my other reading friends. That said I am as completely unbiased as I can be given the above statement.
This is definitely a powerful novel.
I've always felt that Höst's main characters are relatable. Cassandra from the Touchstone books wasn't this all-powerful super-ninja--she had to learn everything just like anyone else and learned from the mistakes she made. Medair fouled up; both in her role as a hero and in her prejudices, and in the end she still wasn't fully 'okay' with the situation, but she was willing to learn to adapt. And Soren (from Champion of the Rose) was an emotional cauldron most of the time, unable to really untangle herself from things at times. Their emotions, their fears and happiness, these things all felt real.
But Maddie felt the most real of all. Part of that may be because she exists in a not so distant future, and while she's obviously in Australia (and I've never been), her concerns are all immediately understandable. Is her family safe? What does the dust mean? Can she trust these people? Can she trust herself? What is the world going to be like post-dust? What about her dreams? Everything about Maddie--minus the scifi stuff--was grounded in reality. And that made this a powerful book.
This is also a book that should be read at least twice--there's a couple of twists involved that change how certain interactions break down once revealed. Maddie is not your typical main character sort; if at all possible I fully believe she would have struck out on her own and stayed on her own if that had been at all practical. And likely not suffered too greatly for it. The other characters as they are introduced--Noi, Pan, Fisher, Gavin, Tyler, etc--are easier to get along with possibly or identify with. Though as Maddie notices, they're all very good at keeping things close to their vest (at first at least).
The near-future feel to the story works to its advantage, there's nothing so far out from what we have now or are proposing technology wise to make this feel so alien. I think this is important for when the Moths attack (or invade, since there's little attacking going on at first) because it grounds the story in enough reality for the reader to wonder 'Would I be able to do that? Do I know someone who can do that?'.
For spoiler reasons I can't explain how much I really loved this one character. After everything goes down, I went back and re-read about this character and was like 'That is so well done.'. Höst lays out a mystery within a mystery within a survival game that at its reveal makes perfect sense and bolsters a few of the other plot threads that would have been mildly problematic.
To be fair this book has exciting moments, but its not action filled. Its largely a character driven plot with a lot of potential to be heart breaking depending on which character's story you invest in. The end isn't sunshine and rainbows--its a compromise and acknowledgement that nothing can be cleaned up perfectly.
Overall this is my favorite book of Höst's--the pacing is well handled, the twists are well choreographed, and there's enough to think about in how the Moths act, how humanity acts because of the Moths and how determination and sacrifice can bring about change, that it should get a reader to think.
Book Review: And All the Stars
e-book review|Publisher - Ebook|science fiction|Young Adult|