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And All the Stars

And All the Stars

Автор Andrea K Höst

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And All the Stars

Автор Andrea K Höst

оценки:
4.5/5 (18 оценки)
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350 страниц
5 часов
Издатель:
Издано:
Sep 30, 2012
ISBN:
9780987265142
Формат:

Описание

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.

Warning: Contains swearing, sexual situations, and Australians.

Издатель:
Издано:
Sep 30, 2012
ISBN:
9780987265142
Формат:

Об авторе

A Swedish-born Australian writer working in fantasy and science fantasy.


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And All the Stars - Andrea K Höst

And All the

Stars

by Andrea K Höst

And All the Stars

© 2012 Andrea K Höst. All rights reserved.

www.andreakhost.com

Cover design using stock art: Andrea K Hösth

ISBN: 978-0-9872651-4-2

Published by Andrea K Hösth at Smashwords

All characters in this publication

are fictitious and any resemblance

to real persons, living or dead,

is purely coincidental.

Description

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.

Acknowledgements

I BLAME THIS BOOK ON

FLANNERY AND WENDY DARLING

and thank them for it.

Additional thanks to Dr Jennifer Elliman, Dr Chris Fellows,

Julie Dillon, Lexie Cenni, and Estara Swanberg.

Author's Note

Spelling is Australian English.

Chapter One

Madeleine Cost's world was a tight, close space, a triangular tube tilted so her head lay lower than her feet. Light reflected off metal, not enough to give any detail, and there was barely room to squeeze one hand past the slick surface, to explore face and skull and find powdery dust and a throbbing lump. Dull pain also marked upper shoulder, hip, thigh. She felt dusty all over, grimed with it, except her lower half, which was wet. Free-flowing liquid drained past her head.

She could smell blood.

Ticket barrier. Those were the rectangles of metal above and beside her. Madeleine could remember reaching for her returned ticket as the red gates snapped back and then – then a blank space between there and here. Thursday lunchtime and she'd been at St James Station, planning to walk down to Woolloomooloo to wait for Tyler, just off the plane and sure to be strained and tired and all the more interesting for it.

The noise the water made suggested a long fall before it hit somewhere past her feet, close enough to spatter her ankles before draining past her. The ticket barriers were a generous double flight of stairs above the platforms, or had been. How far above them was she now? Had it been a bomb? Gas explosion? She could smell smoke, but it wasn't overwhelming. The blood was stronger. Smoke and blood and falling water, and how far was it falling? How big was the drop, and how–

Hello? Madeleine called, just a croak of a voice, anything to shut off that line of thought. The effort made her cough.

There wasn't room enough to shift to hands and knees. She could barely squirm onto her stomach, the small pack she wore catching on the withdrawn gates. Stretching one arm forward, she followed the path of the water down, and found an edge. But she had no way to measure the size of any gap beyond. Reaching back with one sandalled foot, she explored damp channels in powder, and grainy concrete. No edge. Not willing to just lie there, she tucked her elbows in close and wriggled back an inch.

The ground shifted.

Freezing, Madeleine waited for the plunge, but nothing followed except a faint rocking motion. She – the slab of concrete with its burden of ticket barriers and girl – was balanced on a downward slope. Another shift of position and she could send the whole thing plunging, and would fall and fall, and then the blood would be hers.

Eyes squeezed shut, Madeleine tried to calm herself down. She'd always thought herself a composed sort of person, but black panic clawed, demanding an urgent response – screaming, running, leaping – however impossible that might be. It was only the itching in her throat, setting her coughing again, which pulled her back.

Could she drink the thin flow of water running past her? It didn't smell – not stronger than the blood and smoke, at any rate. The tumbling splash was so loud, a solid belt as it hit the concrete near her feet. St James Station was underneath Hyde Park, the ticket barrier level just a few metres below grass and trees. The strength of the water's impact suggested a drop to the platform level.

Up. Down. Stay. Three choices which felt like none in the blood-scented dark.

Her phone, tucked in the outer pocket of her backpack, let out the opening notes of her favourite song. Prone, elbows tucked in, hands beneath her chin, she couldn't just reach back. By the time she'd scrunched herself into the tiny extra space on the tilted border of her world, and worked her opposite arm back, the smoky voice had eased into silence. She still scrabbled for the pack's zip, ignoring the burning protest of her bruised shoulder and side, and caught the heavy rectangle between two reaching fingers.

As Madeleine brought her arm painfully forward, the clear white light from the phone conjured hazy reflections of girl in the silver-metal sides of the two ticket barriers. These faded as she turned the makeshift torch forward to reveal whiteness and a crosshatching of dark lines. Bars.

Madeleine stared, confused, until she recognised the green-painted railing which edged the upper level and the stairs to the platform. They were warped and twisted, but still looked thoroughly solid, forming another wall to the cage capping the slab of concrete. There was no way forward.

It was difficult to see beyond the railing, but the white resolved itself into dust, pale mounds of it, through which she could glimpse a third silver rectangle, this one twisted and torn, the tickets it had swallowed spewing from its innards across dust and chunks of concrete.

Her raft lay on one of the flights of stairs, which did not make sense. St James Station had only two lines. The tracks sat parallel, perhaps fifty metres apart, their platforms joined by a broad expanse of concrete full of pillars which held up the ticket barrier area. The ticket barriers sat over this central area, while the stairs were to either side of it, close to the tracks. To be on the stairs she and her metal cocoon would have had to fall sideways.

Whatever the case, at least she was near the bottom, even if she would still need to risk moving backward to get out.

But before that… Turning her phone around, Madeleine found a missed call from her mother. Her parents thought she was at school, and had no idea she was skipping to start work on the portrait of Tyler. There'd been no point embarking on Round Five Thousand of the Grades v Art argument when Tyler's mild willingness to oblige a cousin didn't extend to altering his schedule in any way, and the cut-off date for the 2016 Archibald was in less than a week.

The phone's clock told her it was nearly one pm – maybe fifteen minutes since she'd arrived at St James – and the signal was strong, but she couldn't get through to her parents. It wasn't till she called triple zero that she had any kind of response, and that was a canned message which boiled down to Everyone is calling emergency.

Trying to reach her voicemail messages didn't work, so she gave up and texted: Can't get through – will talk later.

Without knowing more about what happened, she couldn't be sure whether it was more sensible to wait for rescue, or try to make her own way. Shifting about could trigger a slide or collapse.

Out in the dark someone else's phone rang – one of those joke ring tones, growing louder until the phone was shrieking. No-one picked up. How many people were in the station, lying in the dusty dark? Calling out brought no response, but the ringing told her there must be someone.

Tucking her phone into her bra, Madeleine explored behind her again, cautious toes still finding only dust turning to mud, and wet concrete. An inch back, and nothing. Another inch, and the ground shifted as it had before, but this time Madeleine didn't freeze against the see-saw's tilt, and almost immediately it settled. The settling didn't surprise her – resting on rubble on a stairway, her raft was hardly going to tip upright – but the sensation of it was strange, not as firmly solid as she would expect from concrete stairs.

Feeling a sudden urgency, she wriggled several inches, her feet pelted by liquid as she moved closer to the falling water. And then her questing toes found the far border of her raft, another rough edge. She slowed down, backing inch by inch, until she was half out of her metal tube, part-lying and part-kneeling, then reached with her foot hoping to find the straight edge of a step, or at least firmly packed rubble.

Tickling softness.

She jerked her foot away, gasping and then coughing. Brief and strange as that contact was, she'd recognised instantly what her foot had touched. Hair.

It was a person, and all around her was the scent of their blood, and whoever it was had not moved, or spoken, or reacted at all to Madeleine's foot in their face. She and her raft were on top of someone's body.

The chance that this was not so, that she was crushing someone too badly injured to react, made it impossible for Madeleine to stay, to quiver or quibble or spend one moment longer where she was. She stretched out her other leg, trying to reach as far as possible, and this time met cloth, and a warm and yielding wetness, and though this left Madeleine in no doubt that the person beneath her was not alive, it gave her even less reason to slow down, as her foot found something solid beyond and she thrust herself up and back, with a temporary agility worthy of a gymnast, onto something which was step and only step, with a railing she could clutch while she sobbed and gulped to keep down the scalding liquid which rose in her throat.

Her foot, the whole lower part of her leg, was sticky-wet, and when she could move at all the first thing she did was hold it out, back towards her raft, and the water which fell so steadily. She wanted to stand in the narrow stream, to be certain nothing remained, and to be free of her thick coating of dust. But she couldn't bring herself to cross over the crushed, mangled thing lying invisible in the dark, any more than she could turn her phone on it and capture a sight to burn her mind.

Still clutching her railing, Madeleine looked about for the source of light which made the darkness not quite complete. There were no sturdy exit signs or miraculously enduring fluorescents: instead a field, a wall, of luminous motes, shining and glittering.

It made her dizzy, for it was the sky, the sky at night with muted stars and yet it was here and to her right, not above, despite the direction gravity proclaimed to be down.

These wrong-way stars did not produce nearly enough illumination to truly see through the thin mist of settling dust, but she could make out shapes, black against coal grey. The ticket barriers. The railing. The stair which had been severed above the wide mid-flight step where she stood.

The glimmer was not enough to reveal any details of the platform below, so Madeleine had to resort to her phone, to gauge the eight-foot drop and then decide to work her way along the outside of the railing, keeping her head turned away from what lay upon the stair. She looked for the reflective strip which lined the edge of the platform instead, but couldn't make it out through the powdery white mounded everywhere.

The climb down was relatively easy, the severed railing firm despite the absence of the upper half of the stair, and then she was on the flat expanse of the platform, a treacherous landscape of concrete and projecting rods of metal beneath concealing dust. Ridiculous amounts of it, some piles higher than she stood, and even the gullies between those mountains were knee-deep.

Madeleine guessed the entire ticket level had fallen down, but that did not explain what looked like an explosion in a chalk factory. Nor the stars. They drew her, a moth to the moon, her free hand held over her mouth and nose to keep out the fine haze of floating particles. Up close, unobscured, the stars blazed in a wall of black: galaxies and nebulae and fiery novae, stretching up and to either side of her in a faintly curving wall which bisected the broad lower expanse of the station and disappeared through the cracked and buckled cement at her feet.

Tucking her phone away again, Madeleine lifted both hands and brushed cautious fingertips against the surface. She expected it to be cool, slick and damp, like limestone in caves, but what she touched was velvet. Astonished, she pressed her hands against warm, smooth stone, sensuous against her skin. It felt as solid as marble, but somehow alive, as if waiting would bring a pulse, the beat of a buried heart.

And then light flashed, and she was picked up and thrown backward into the dark.

Chapter Two

Madeleine lay suffocating in dust and near misses. Broken leg. Steel bar through her back. Broken neck. So many things she could have done to herself. Worse was measuring what damage she had actually done. She'd landed flat on her back, fortunately square on one of the deeper piles of dust, which had erupted like a geyser around her. Her already-painful skull was screaming protest at new abuse. But it was a reluctance in her arms and legs, a disconnect between want and ability to move, which spun her into terror. Paralysed. Was she paralysed?

Pins and needles. They arrived in force, swept through her, the whole of her body jolting with a hornet swarm's stinging assault, but her spasmodic curl in reaction showed her that she could move, even though the most she could manage at first was to curl further, to clutch knees, elbows, and try to breathe through lungs which buzzed and burned, while somehow not inhaling powder. It smelled like an approaching rainstorm.

Madeleine did not quite lose consciousness, but when the stinging receded she lay numb while a new layer of dust sifted down. She'd nearly killed herself. Thrown away the unspeakable good fortune which had given her a protective cocoon of metal when however many others at the station had nothing to shield them. She had too much to do, too many images in her head which deserved release, and she had almost denied herself that. Sabotaged her own future just because of something strange and beautiful, velvet beneath her touch.

Her phone, still tucked behind the padding of her bra, lit up. The singer's crooning murmur was far from a spur to action, but Madeleine did manage to pluck the device from her chest and tell it hello.

Her mother's crisp voice, crackling with static. "Finally! Maddie, I'm on my way to the school. Stay inside. They say the cloud's heading our way, but we should have time to get you home and seal the doors. Don't hang up – I'll let you know when I'm there."

Cloud? Madeleine blinked. What are you talking about?

A familiar, exasperated sigh. Always in your own world. Look, they think it's some kind of bio-weapon. A cloud of dust, coming from a black tower in Hyde Park. It's happening all over the world – black towers and dust. They're saying it's aliens or – oh, what does it matter? Just stay where you are until I get there. Are you closer to the Strickland or Walpole Street entrance?

The glow of Madeleine's phone lit up glittering swirls in the powder still settling after her fall. Her throat itched, and she wanted nothing more than to be saved. And her mother was out trying to do exactly that, driving to school instead of home keeping herself safe. Riding to the rescue.

I'm at the Gallery, Mum.

The background noise of the call changed abruptly, and then her mother's voice came clearer, no longer on the hands-free set. You're where?

The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Madeleine said, making the lie resigned, apologetic, with no hint of dark and bruises, of broken things and dust. I was waiting here till Tyler's plane got in.

You... The word trailed away on a small shaking note, as unlike Victoria Cost as it was possible to be.

I'm probably safer than you, Madeleine said, to fill the silence, to hear something other than that strangled word. Her eyes stung and she had to swallow, to work to make her voice sound casual, a little guilty, a touch disbelieving, as if she couldn't credit the idea of black towers or bio-weapon attacks. I'm in the Asian art section – it doesn't even have windows. Are the animals okay?

That damn painting, Madeleine's mother said. You – Madeleine, why do you always...

Is Dad home?

He's on his way. Her mother's voice was regaining its usual brisk pace. "You stay where you are. Don't go to have a look outside. Find the door to that section and shut it. Don't worry about what the Gallery staff say. Stay as far away from outside doors and windows as possible, for as long as you can. Even when the air seems clear, use something to cover your mouth and nose. The roads are going insane, so I'm not sure when I'll be able to get in to where you are, but I'll call you back when there's news and you can head to Tyler's. You've still got that pass-key?"

Yes, Mum. The familiar reeling off of instructions helped Madeleine conjure a shadow of a smile, made it possible to respond with the right note of weary patience.

Good. I'll call you when it sounds like it's safer for you to head to Tyler's. Or if it looks like you should try to spend the night there. Don't let anyone try to make you leave before it's clear.

I won't. Mum...

But her mother had hung up. Madeleine laughed, then coughed, and gingerly levered herself into a sitting position. Her back and head did not love her, but her mother did, even if they'd had a lot of trouble talking to each other the last few years. Now all she had to do was overcome a little matter of collapsed exits, and get herself down to Tyler's.

And then? She could pretend to her mother all she liked, but whatever the dust did, Madeleine was surely going to find out. She must have exceeded any minimum dose a thousand times over. Breathed it, swallowed it, had it in her eyes, ground it into her skin.

But that only made her want a bath, to clean herself off, to not be this filthy, fumbling, near-blind creature. If you want B, finish A, her goal-oriented mother was always saying, and just now that was advice Madeleine was willing to take. Time to get out.

But first check for other people, Madeleine reminded herself, and sighed.

Lifting her phone, she used it again as a torch, surveying a dim landscape of severed support pillars, broken stairs, and deceptively soft mounds below a wall of stars. Her train had departed as she'd walked up the stairs, and both platforms – what remained of them short of the wall of stars – stood empty. In the middle of the day the station had been far from busy, but there'd been a few people about. She could start with the small control rooms where the station staff retreated after signalling trains to depart, and the elevator–

No, not the elevator. Nothing could be alive in that compressed wedge of glass and metal.

The platform control rooms were double-entrance boxes, not much larger than the elevator. Madeleine headed left, focusing on the nearest doorway: a dark, empty square. A phone began to ring as she approached, and Madeleine edged into the room to a jaunty proclamation of I'm Too Sexy. A man lay near-buried in the dust, sprawled face-down across the threshold of the far doorway. Madeleine couldn't see any blood, any obvious injury, but the layer of dust didn't seem disturbed by any rise or fall of chest.

As the phone switched to screaming about messages, she made herself touch his shoulder, shake him, press her fingers to his throat, but chose not to turn him over, to discover what had left him so still. Instead, she moved to the edge of the platform, raising her phone to peer up at the shadowy curve above and the darkness which swallowed the track in either direction.

Anyone there? Madeleine called. Hell– A new spasm of coughing ripped through her, reviving the pounding in her head. It was impossible not to kick up fresh clouds of dust as she waded through it, and inhaling sharply had been a definite mistake.

If anyone was going to call for help, they would have done so already. All she could hear was falling water. Best to be methodical.

Reluctant to go near the starry wall again, Madeleine merely peered along the shortened platform, then turned to begin picking her way in the other direction. Almost immediately a rounded shape turned under her foot and she nearly went down, dropping her phone into a drift which glowed and sparkled unexpectedly.

Welcome to the Glitter Mines, Madeleine muttered, digging to retrieve her phone and then investigate what she'd stood on. A scatter of soft drinks, escapees from a tumbled vending machine. That was serendipity, and Madeleine immediately picked up the nearest bottle and twisted the cap. The contents erupted into her face, but even a sticky orange bath was better than dust on dust, and she gulped down the remainder, till her throat no longer felt coated. Discarding the bottle, she wiped her phone, then tucked a few spare drinks into her backpack.

Moving more cautiously, she decided to follow the very edge of the platform, since little of the rubble had reached the track itself, and the curved arch above it was still intact. The platform extended further than the central connecting section, and she walked all the way down to the end and peered along the track as it disappeared into the tunnel to Circular Quay.

No visible damage, and far less dust. The twin overhead lines which powered Sydney trains seemed intact, though she supposed they must be severed by the starry wall. It would be easy for her to climb down and walk out, but she still had a lot of area to check.

About to turn away, Madeleine caught sight of a depression in the dust and, disbelieving, angled her phone for a better look. Footprints. Barely visible, since another layer of pale powder had settled on top, but definitely footprints. Three, maybe four people, had climbed down to the tracks here.

She wasn't angry at being left. People were like that. And it released her from further searching.

The drop to the track was nearly as tall as Madeleine, but it wasn't difficult to lower herself off the edge to the chunky gravel which surrounded the rails. Then she hesitated at the mouth of the tunnel, trying to see more than a few feet along the track before turning to stare back at distant pinpricks, remembering the feel of velvet beneath her fingertips, and then the jolt. Her hands weren't damaged.

Focus. Now was the time for getting out, not speculating.

Madeleine began to walk, holding her phone up high in case of something more unexpected than dust. The area between the rails was easy to walk on, with only stray lumps of clinker to look out for, and she followed the gentle curve until the only sign of dust were sprinkles which may have come from those who'd gone before her. Stopping to study a dusty print, she suddenly found her coating of grime intolerable.

Shedding her backpack, Madeleine pulled loose the wooden pin she used to hold her crinkle-curling brown hair in a knot at the nape of her neck, and ran her fingers through it over and over, showering an enormous amount of dust onto the rails. She was wearing a strappy sun dress, chosen because of Tyler, and not something she'd ordinarily wear while painting. Shaking and patting it with her hands added to the cloud around her, and she moved a few metres further before trying to beat her backpack clean.

It was impossible to get it all off, but she did manage to reduce her coating to a light powder, and cracked another bottle of soft drink to sip as she walked, fighting off the persistent itch in her throat. The clinker crunched beneath her feet, and occasionally she heard sounds which made her pause, poised to run, telling herself it was only rats, and far from reassured by that since she hated rats.

Aliens or rats, whatever it was stayed away, and eventually a point of light appeared ahead and the tunnel began to lighten. Soon Madeleine didn't need her phone to find her way, and she picked up her pace even as she noticed a fine layer of powder covering the track and clinging to the walls. Circular Quay was not an underground station, and a thin coating of dust had settled over it, including on the train – a double-decker Tangara type, big and blocky – which sat on the track at the station platform. Fortunately it was not right up against the tunnel exit: first came a short section of track like a bridge, with a walkway along the side. Madeleine stepped up on this, and immediately looked out to what should be a sweeping view to the Sydney Harbour Bridge across the ferry terminals.

The only trace of the Bridge was a dim grey line. Years ago a great storm of red dust had picked up in Australia's desert heart and swept across New South Wales all the way to Sydney, blanketing the city in a fiery haze. Madeleine had missed it, had woken only to a family car which needed a good wash, but she'd seen pictures of the Bridge hidden almost as completely as this. When her mother had told her that a tower in Hyde Park had let out a cloud of dust, she'd imagined a billow of smoke building

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4.6
18 оценки / 13 Обзоры
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  • (5/5)
    I do not give out 5 stars to all of the books I read, but after a really horrible day, when I thought about what to write about on my blog tonight, I thought that maybe I'd better go with something that made me happy, rather than something that would make me any crankier.

    What a lead in. Yikes.

    I loved Madeleine and her friends! I am so glad I took a chance on reading this. I am a little leery of self-published books, not that a traditionally published book is guaranteed to be good, but at least it goes through a few more stages than self-published books might...

    No worries, here though. This is a well-written (i.e. good grammar! lovely, clear sentences!), interesting story, that kept me up nice and late when I should have been sleeping. Um, yeah, like now, when I'm writing this review and ought to be in bed...

    I'm going to avoid writing too much, so I don't inadvertently spoil anything. The story is unusual, and deserves to be discovered as you read, not in a spoiler.

    One small quibble is that the cast was overly large for me: I had a bit of trouble keeping track of some of the characters, they seemed to overlap in my mind a bit. Most of them, though, are fleshed out enough to be interesting, and I really loved the fact that the group was very diverse. And the diversity didn't feel forced (i.e. I didn't feel like the author was trying to check off certain ethnic and sexual orientation categories on a list).

    I very much want to visit Australia some day, so it was especially fun to read something set in Sydney. A lot of the dystopian /post-apocalyptic fiction I've read lately has "felt" US-centric, so reading something set somewhere that was completely foreign to me was a nice change. It makes me want to go there even more than I did before!

    And of course, this is not post-apocalyptic: this is happening during the apocalypse itself. I found myself sitting back several times thinking about how much I agreed with the author about how certain things would probably go if an actual apocalyptic event took place.

    Bottom line: highly recommended if you are looking for a fast-paced, unique adventure with some nice humor (humour?) and a sweet (and well-done) romance.
  • (3/5)
    Torn between three and four stars for this, and may come back and settle on a higher rating. Some things were superbly done, and others were disappointing.

    For starters: this is a YA science fiction novel -- post-apocalyptic, no less -- that isn't a dystopia and doesn't revolve around a love triangle. HALLELUJAH. A not insignificant part of my enjoyment of the book came from periodically gleefully reminding myself that no one was being forced to marry anyone else or live inside a domed city or whatever. Refreshing. The ensemble of main characters is also vivid and fun (and of differing races and sexualities, no less), and I forgave a number of plot deficiencies because they allowed the characters to run around and interact in ways I enjoyed.

    That said, a lot of the conflict -- especially the external conflict -- is just... too easy. Everything from the details of their daily lives after the alien invasion (I'm being deliberately vague here) to the whole resolution. There were also some writerly tics that bugged me -- ending scenes before they were really through and recapping the action; a few very talky scenes (including the epilogue!) that seemed artificial.

    All in all, though, quite enjoyable, and a nice palate cleanser for anyone tired of YA dystopias.

    It is also worth noting that this is the first self-published book I've read all the way through. If all self-published books were as good as this one, traditional publishing might really be in danger. Sadly (?), most aren't.
  • (5/5)
    I didn't expect this to be so good but I was just blown away. It's got action, adventure and romance. The writer has a way of describing things in detail that is just so beautiful
  • (4/5)
    And All the Stars is one of the better YA apocalyptic novels I’ve read. Towers have sprouted from cities around the world, spreading a strange dust. Those who encounter the dust either die or transform… Madeleine Cost is a fifteen year old artist who’s skipping school to go paint a portrait of her cousin. She winds up right next to Sydney’s tower and gets absolutely coated in the dust. She teams up with some other teenage survivors to face the new world and what they’ve become.I almost quit reading And All the Stars six pages in. Why? The protagonist makes a stupid and completely pointless decision. She’s trapped in an abandoned subway, dead bodies around her, and when her mom calls her on the phone she lies about where she is! Wow, priorities! This feels like typical behavior from a YA novel, but I find it very worthy of an eye roll. Thankfully, I did continue reading and the rest of the book improved.One of the things I liked about And All the Stars was that while it was an apocalyptic novel focused on survival, it was more about friendship than people being nasty and horrible to each other. The group she falls in with and don’t turn on each other or (as one character puts it) reenact Lord of the Flies. I like this brand of optimistic apocalypse novels. It reminds me a bit of On the Edge of Gone that way.While I never exactly fell in love with any of the characters, I can still remember some of their names over a week later, which is always a good sign. As I said, I wasn’t super connected to any of them, but it can be hard to flesh out such a large group of characters, especially in a book only 200 pages. Also, I liked that the group roughly gender equal and notably diverse.I wasn’t a huge fan of how the romance subplot went down, but it wasn’t super annoying and didn’t consume the entire book. Mainly I worry about what a reveal means for consent issues with a sex scene. I don’t feel like the implications were really addressed in the text. I also wasn’t a fan of the “five years later” epilogue that showed the end result of everyone’s lives and romantic prospects. It just didn’t feel necessary.I’d recommend And All the Stars for anyone looking for hopeful apocalypse novels or well written self published books.Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.
  • (5/5)
    Note: I received a free copy through Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.Read the full review at Witchmag's BoekenplankWow…. *deep sigh* This still this doesn’t describe what I experienced while reading this phenomenal book. Although the start was a bit rocky, cause, just as Madeleine, I had a bit of trouble with getting my bearings. What just happened and where is she? However, the moment everything started to make sense the story took me by the hand and I was dragged along. And it wouldn’t let me go. There was no moment to breathe, no time to rest, to process everything that happened. This continued till near the end. Then I had to stop with a gasp and tears in my eyes. Wow what a twist! It changed the whole story! It was a huge shock! And I just couldn’t continue until I processed all the consequences, rewritten all the scenes in my head. This book is definitely one of the best I’ve read!It was great to experience how Andrea K. Höst managed to create a feeling of safety for Madeleine and her friends. And disrupt that safety the next moment. It was just an illusion. This cycle repeated itself time after time. And every time I fell for it. Every time I thought, now they would be safe, hidden from the Moths. And every time I was brought back to the edge of my seat. You just didn’t know when you could expect the next attack, the next discovery, the next adversity. Which made it almost impossible to put the book down till you read the last letter. You just had to know if everyone made it.The Moths, who they are, how they look like, what their reasons are. Everything is told in such a detailed way. Nothing is overlooked or forgotten. It’s a solid story. A story that makes you marvel and feels very believable, like it could really happen. A story that makes you think what the consequences for you and your family would be, if it happened. It stays with you, even after you finished reading.And then there’s Madeleine. She feels so real, like she’s an existing person, not a fictional character in a book. Madeleine is also very normal, at least before she turned blue ;) . This made the story much more intriguing. Especially since you can see her grow. From a timid wallflower to someone who’s not afraid to make choices, who’ll be there when her friends need her. It’s easy to care about her, to encourage her, hug her when she’s down. She’s a character you can only love.Conclusion5 HEARTS. The story fits together. It doesn’t let you go, once you’ve started. It keeps you on the edge of your seat. It’s full of surprises and has a lovable main character. In other words: an excellent book. There are so many things that I loved about it, but I won’t tell them. You’ll just have to experience it yourself by reading it!
  • (4/5)
    It's so hard not to give this five stars for the ending alone, but in the middle there was a time in which I grew bored and felt myself not wanting to read it as much as I had in the beginning. Thus the four star rating. Once I got through that snag though, everything happened in brilliant quick succession and I don't regret it for a minute.

    This is a breath of fresh air in a highly saturated genre. Höst twisted it and gave it a unique spin. It's worth the read, even if you're just sick of post-apocalyptic stories--here's one that takes place in the heat of it.

    That last part of the book sucked me in so completely, I swear the last time I looked at the clock it was ten, and when I finally resurfaced, dazed, it was midnight. Thank you Andrea Höst, for a dazzling trip.
  • (4/5)
    Four words sent me scurrying to my library in search of this book: Australian Apocalyptic Young Adult. Spires land in major cities around the world and spray out clouds of dust. Madeleine, who has skipped school in order to paint her famous cousin, is at the train station when the Sydney spire lands atop it. While other people are seeking refuge from the dust, Madeleine is unable to avoid it...I stayed up late reading this three nights in a row, and then, once I finished it, I could not stop thinking about this story.The writing is occasionally a bit rough around the edges; one or two things aren't explained as clearly as they need to be, that sort of thing. But And All the Stars gets so many things right that I was prepared to overlook that.It is not a trilogy with a clichéd love-triangle. It's different having an apocalypse in which people are still able to use the internet - and seeing how this becomes a double-edged sword. (There are good reasons why the internet doesn't go down.) It also touches on a dilemma I'm particularly fascinated by: how do you feel about someone you care for if they're being controlled by something else? and how do you respond if you don't know whether they're still conscious or if the process of possession will ever be reversible?Its plot twists are unexpected and hurt. Its teenage cast is matter-of-factly diverse in terms of race, religion and sexual orientation. They're different ages and have different passions - which they don't abandon because their world has changed. (For instance, Madeleine sees art supplies as important to her survival as food. And Fisher, aka Science Boy, treats the apocalypse as a science experiment and publishes studies online.) Their survival is realistic, even if the reasons why they are able to survive as they do are not all immediately apparent.It is a story about friendship, about growing relationships in the face of extraordinary circumstances and the importance of having people to rely on. There's teamwork, cupcakes, banter, and frequent references to Shakespeare, The Lord of the Rings and The Three Musketeers. There's the joy of finding a group of friends you want to keep forever.And I kind of wish it was a trilogy because, like Madeleine, I want to spend more time with these characters.
  • (5/5)
    Whatever you think And All the Stars by Andrea K. Höst will be about, you are probably wrong (or you are a seer). The book is full of plot twists and you never know what is going to happen next.

    And it's hard to write a review without spoiling parts of the book, but I'll try.

    The book follows Madeleine, and she's not your typical YA protagonist, she's insecure, shy, and more of a follower than a leader. Madeleine is an artist, very passionate about painting and drawing, and when she's on her way to her cousin's home she finds herself knee deep in some weird dust. She rightfully fears the worst.

    Madeleine meets a group of teens who are developing the same strange dark blue with stars patches in their skin, and the circumstances force her to join forces with them in order to survive the apocalypse.

    The cast is one of the most diverse I've ever read, though not every character was as developed as the protagonist throughout the story, and their bonds did not seem nearly as strong as I think we are supposed to imply (it was more like they were together only because of what they were going through).

    The only exception being Madeleine's relationship with her love interest, which was handled perfectly, and the slow and almost timid way they fell for each other felt genuine.

    The setting can be a bit confusing for people not familiar with Sydney, and the beginning too.

    After basics of what is happening are explained, the plot really takes off and never slows down until the very ending.
  • (5/5)
    Wow, wow, wow!

    Where to start? I loved everything about this book. The plot, the characters, the settings, the pacing, the twist! Oh my gosh, the twist! This was my first read from Andrea K. Höst but it will definitely not be my last!

    We begin the story with Madeleine waking up stuck in a precarious position after an apocalyptic event:
    Madeleine Cost's world was a tight, close space, a triangular tube tilted so her head lay lower than her feet. Light reflected off metal, and there was barely room to squeeze one hand past the slick surface, to explore face and skull and find a powdery dust and a throbbing lump. Dull pain also marked upper shoulder, hip, thigh. She felt dusty all over, grimed with it, except her lower half which was wet. Free-flowing liquid drained past her head.

    She could smell blood.
    How's that for setting the scene? The descriptions make you really see the details of the scene without being tedious and verbose.

    From that scene we follow Madeleine through the aftermath of the event. She meets other teen survivors who form a close-knit group and do their best to cope with their circumstances.

    The cast of characters is unique and diverse. It was absolutely refreshing to read about characters who were not all white middle-class. It's a multi-cultural cast and includes glbt characters as well. While these things were not essential to the plot (and in fact not a part of the plot at all), they made the story and characters much more authentic and believable. This book is really mostly about the characters. The relationships between them, the bonds formed - these are the main parts of the book. They experience humor and joy and love and nerves and depression and devastation and the way they play off of each other is really the greatest part of this book. It's a glimpse into the lives of these teens while dealing with horrendous circumstances. The scenes of normal everyday things were some of the best for me. The normalcy and humor of some of the situations and dialogue played against the backdrop of this event is particularly powerful.

    I loved how these characters reacted to these events. What would you do during an apocalypse? Would you hide in your house? Would you try to help others? Would you be able to do what needed to be done in the afermath? How would you eat? Where would you go? What would you do with those who did not survive? All of those questions are ones these characters deal with and they all react in a realistic way.

    This was a very quick read for me. From that first paragraph, I was hooked. This book grabbed me and did not let go until the last page. The pacing was perfect. Moments of fear and uncertainty are intertwined perfectly with moments of and excitement and joy. There are scenes of action and movement intertwined perfectly with moments of peace. The action draws you in and makes you want to know more while the peace allows time for the reader to connect with the characters. Very well done.

    There is a major plot twist about three-quarters of the way through. I was completely blown away. I did not see it coming at all! It twisted my guts and had me reeling! It's also a major turning point in the plot of the book and the rest of the events are shaped by it.

    As for the idea behind this book, all I can say is that Andrea Höst has one hell of an imagination. I don't want to give anything away and so won't say too much but this was an original and imaginative idea. I've recently read a few books with have an original spin on an old idea (fairies, etc.) but this is the first time in a long time that I've read an absolutely original idea, period.

    This is a standalone novel and I think readers will be happy with the ending. We're not left wondering what happened to the characters. Everything is resolved in a way that is satisfying and gratifying to the reader.

    I highly recommend this to all fans of light sci-fi, post-apocolyptic fiction and, although this is not a dystopian novel, I think fans of that genre will love this one as well.
  • (5/5)
    In a unique twist of a non-dystopic apocalyptic story, Andrea Host has created a series of characters that will grab your heart and imagination and thrust you into the midst of the action. Although this is very much an ensemble cast, one of the favorite characters for me was Madeline: smart, capable and beautifully flawed, with a core of strength and goodness that enhance the woman she will become. The other characters that she befriends along the way are all uniquely defined, described and voiced: what develops is a truly diverse cast of characters who all understand the value of friendship, cooperation and above all safety and comfort in numbers.

    With several mysteries surrounding the characters, there are several twists that reveal the skill with which the author has led the reader to the dissolution of the relationships that all make sense once the backstory is revealed. Although there are some active moments, the majority of the pacing and adventure from this book all derive from the multi-cultural and diverse characters and you will find yourself without a singular clear character to declare a stand out favorite.

    Emotionally impactful without being overly angst ridden, this is a book that will be enjoyed by many.

    I received an eBook copy from the author via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review, and all conclusions are my own responsibility.
  • (4/5)
    Andrea K. Höst writes a credible alien-invasion story in her novel And All the Stars. The pacing is brisk, characters well-defined and believable, alien concept freshly original, and the writing is crisp, at times startling. And if this is a self-published book, as I suspect, Höst deserves a great deal of credit, because this is just the best damned SF novel I've read in quite some time.Höst writes about a complex alien invasion in which there are many forms of alien that descend to earth, all with the intent of staging a series of life and death games, using human hosts like clothing easily discarded, all to determine the next ruler of their hierarchical clan system.Caught in this invasion are a group of young people who learn to live and work together to at first escape, and eventually overthrow, their alien overlords, while dealing with their own physical transformation, induced by an alien infection.As a pleasant aside, the novel is set in Australia, and doesn't have a single American-centric moment.My only criticism, and it is slight, is a lack of development as to how society's infrastructure continues to operate when that society comes to a standstill. There is amazingly still power that runs refrigeration, lights, allowing batteries to be recharged. The Internet remains intact, without seemingly having anyone there to maintain servers and satellites and cables. Food choices for the ravenously blue-stained humans consistently revert to sugar-based foods, without scientific background as to why sugar could sustain such enormous physical output, something which flies in the face of conventional wisdom. And Höst's society is remarkably dominated by youth. Rarely a person under 21 makes any significant appearance, which is another plausibility point given the depth of scientific knowledge required to understand and take down the alien invasion.But, truly, I quibble.This is a really great read, and as soon as you can, if you love SF, you need to acquire a copy.
  • (4/5)
    The whole concept of this story completely threw me for a loop. It wasn't the typical alien abduction story or even apocalypse story. I'm having a hard time categorizing this whole story just simply because of that.And All the Stars by Andrea K. Höst is the story of Madeleine as she struggles with what we would consider a world under alien invasion. Perhaps it is the worst nightmare of all the people who stare at the stars and wonder if there is other life out there. It all starts out with a dust cloud that settles over the city of Sydney and essentially all of the big cities across the globe. Then the dust stains the skin of the people who find themselves in contact with it. These people, Madeleine included, start noticing subtle differences between the person they used to be and the thing they've become. What appears to be a friendly take over suddenly becomes a game of cat and mouse between those with stained skin and the aliens seeking to inhabit their bodies.Madeleine is an artist, always carrying a sketchbook or craving to have one in her hand. Her love is not understood by her family who simply see it as a nice hobby and that she should really be focusing her efforts on schoolwork. So of course, when she ditches school to work on a painting of her cousin, Tyler, and ends up being trapped in a destroyed St. James Station after the Sydney Spire appears, her parents are furious. She wishes they would understand her desire to be a great artist -- to have a pencil and sketchbook on her at all times -- but they can't seem to grasp it. Through the whole story, I realized just what passion really is for an artist and how it can be all consuming because that's what it is for Madeleine. She isn't necessarily selfish but rather devoted to the things she is passionate about. The great thing about this loyalty and passion is that it feeds into a lot of different aspects of her life. Relationships, friendships, the cause, and her art turn out to be her greatest passion. It's funny because she is described as typically shying away from friendships and yet she turns out probably the greatest friend anyone could have by the end of the story. She grows a lot through the process of the story and is an admirable character.You know that one character that you just aren't entirely sure about? The one with all the secrets? Yeah, that was Fisher Charteris. He is the love interest of the story and I feel like an 'of course' has to follow that statement. Isn't it typically the love interest that holds all the secrets because they can cause the greatest betrayals? Either way, Fisher is actually a great love interest that would either excite me or disappoint me by the end of the book and essentially, he did both. He is probably the smartest character in the story, constantly feeding information and giving opinions about certain things. The attitude that follows a know-it-all is either self-centeredness or humility. I found that with Fisher, he projected an egotistical guy but was really insecure and uncertain of himself underneath it all. There was one main problem: he indeed brought about the greatest betrayal and heartache of the main character, Madeline. I hate when there is uncertainty in relationships which was all that was left after the betrayal shatter trust and knowledge about the relationship.The Blue Musketeers as they called themselves, excluding Madeline and Fisher, included the following people; Nash, Emily or Millie, Pan, Min, and Noi. These characters made up the core of the story that held up the main character as she suffered from uncertainty and provided comedic relief when it was certainly needed. I'm going to talk about my two favorite characters who are Pan and Noi. I would love to go into all of the characters but I doubt I have enough time to compose such a long post. First, Pan. Oh how I love Pan. I either want a best friend like Pan or to date a guy like Pan. He is the type of guy that has a lot of energy and yet knows when to use it for the best effect. It's hard to read him because he is an actor by trade and can cover up his emotions by projecting a character as quick as the flip of a switch. Yet I found myself drawn to his character. I love Pan. Now onto Noi, she assumes the mother role of the group while clinging to her teenage essence. Like a mother, she hides the strain and influence the circumstances are having over her. I feel a lot of sympathy for her. I think everyone at some point has assumed the mother role for some reason and I could see how desperately she wanted to break down and yet remain strong for everyone around her. She and I are similar and I think that's what formed a lot of my attachment with her.The whole world is well developed and the foreign race of invaders was so real that I almost felt like they were real. Which is freaky by the way. I really liked this story. It held my interest and was a beautiful novel that told the tale of a group of teenagers who've lost everything and yet found something worth living for. Check this story out. It's worth it.
  • (5/5)
    And All the Stars by Andrea K Host.

    I first had a taste of this novel in a sample; before discovering that it hadn't been released. In the bit of the beginning that I was able to read, I was hooked. I don't read a lot of apocalyptic novels or dystopian novels. I can't say with great knowledge that this contains no dystopia, but in my meager knowledge it didn't seem so much. I was drawn into the story by the great writing and story telling. It certainly wasn't the claustrophobic description or the ever-present feeling of being choked by some strange and possibly alien dust.The slow but persistent buildup of the character, Madeleine's, suspicion that she's at ground zero of a possible bio weapon. The eventual realization that she's all alone and that those around her who aren't dead are locked up in any type of safe containment that they could find. No one is going to offer to let her, and the strange dust that's choking her, into their safety.

    Some of the earlier pages are difficult to get through for some people-someone I know put it down very early and it's too bad they did. There are some very important plot points in those pages. So, it's important and it does help drive the story and the character. Madeleine has survived the worst of the catastrophe with some injury and is confused and afraid.

    Madeleine is your average rebellious teen who seems to be a bit of a loner. She's immersed herself in her art and wants to gain honor in that field at a young age. To that end she's skipped school and gone into the big city for a chance to paint a portrait of her famous cousin Tyler.

    Now she's face to face with that very place that parents always warn their teens about and it could be her most fatal move in her rebellion. In her early wandering she contacts her parents and continues to lie about where she is to keep them from worrying.

    There is a great sense that Madeleine is already dead. She's just been given a temporary reprieve and it's not yet clear if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Madeleine eventually makes it to her cousins apartment. Her cousin is gone and she's able to get in. She cleans up and while trying to avoid facing the inevitability of her death, she decides that her last act should be the portrait of her cousin even though it won't be possible to have him pose live.

    For me this was a very interesting type of character development. The author,Andrea, builds a believable portrait of how an artist feels and sees things while choosing what eventually ends up on the canvas. We see this development quite a number of times throughout the story. Enough for the reader to wonder if Andrea is applying how she writes to how an artist might be inspired or if, in fact, it's from her own experience with sketching and painting.

    Eventually our Character, Madeleine, starts experiencing the side effects of the dust. They are both strange and unsettling, and there is always the fear that she might die. All the time she's monitoring broadcasts about others who are affected, and many of those have died. I found no problem with the notion that much of technology was still active; even after establishing that this is an invasion. In fact it made sense that since this was happening everywhere that it would be more demoralizing to have a constant feed of information telling everyone how bleak things were.

    Eventually the side affect that causes Madeleine to have an insatiable appetite is what brings her out to brave the city and seek sustenance. This is when she begins to meet more people and make friends in a way she would never have done if things were normal. This is when the story really takes off.

    I found the pacing in this novel to be quite tight. I'm not a fan of seat of your pants action from cover to cover and there were plenty of well place lulls in the narrative that make perfect sense as far as plot and character development. It did seem a bit longer than 205 pages in the e-book, but when I love the characters I love more pages because I usually don't want to say goodbye so quickly once I get to know them.

    As has been noted by other reviewers; there are plenty of plot twists in the story to keep the reader guessing. I often catch these in most novels, usually before they are -on the next page. There is one in here though that caught me unaware- the twist makes perfect sense- and you want to kick yourself and few other people when it happens.

    Young, old- whatever genre- I think everyone will love this book.(Except perhaps those who are genuinely claustrophobic; as is someone I know.) Trust me. Once you get past that first bit of suffocating but possibly accurate description (I've never been in that situation so I don't know.) things will be easier to take.

    J.L. Dobias