elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

2015 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention: Astounding! by Kim Fielding

Astounding! by Kim Fielding
Gay Fantasy Romance
Paperback: 210 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (June 26, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1634762207
ISBN-13: 978-1634762205
Amazon: Astounding!
Amazon Kindle: Astounding!

Carter Evans is founder and editor-in-chief of Astounding!―a formerly popular spec fiction magazine currently in its death throes. Not only can he do nothing to save it, but stuck in a rathole apartment with few interpersonal connections, he can’t seem to do much to rescue his future either. And certainly all the booze isn’t helping. He snaps when he receives yet another terrible story submission from the mysterious writer J. Harper―and in a drunken haze, Carter sends Harper a rejection letter he soon regrets.

J. Harper turns out to be John Harper, a sweet man who resembles a ’50s movie star and claims to be an extraterrestrial. Despite John’s delusions, Carter’s apology quickly turns into something more as the two lonely men find a powerful connection. Inexplicably drawn to John, Carter invites him along on a road trip. But as they travel, Carter is in for some big surprises, some major heartbreak… and just maybe the promise of a good future after all.

The author did an amazing job with her characters. Carter wasn't perfect by any means. He was an overweight hermit with a drinking problem but I couldn't help but empathize with him and want a happy end for him and John. Though not a genre I often read, this story leapt off the page and left me wanting more.

While the plot for Astounding! Is sort of typical, and (thankfully, because I was rooting for these guys) predictable, I still liked the way the author stayed faithful to it and le the characters develop through it without dragging in any maudlin, over-the-top angst to go with the predicted lows. She wrote characters strong enough to weather the low points and resilient enough to revel in the high points. She backed up her main characters with fun and interesting second and tertiary characters that enhanced the story but never stole the spotlight. I had a great sense of place through the whole novel, though it changed settings frequently. I could easily picture the vast assortment of venues the characters lived, played and worked in. I felt like I was immersed in the settings as much as in the characters. There is no better way to get me into a book than for a writer to make me laugh. And I cried, too. Just a bit, because parts were sad, but I like that the story didn’t dwell in those places over long, but allowed her characters to grow through their pain and come out the other side still  intact, if slightly reconfigured. And I liked that the writer poked fun at her own writing in a way, throwing out blunt punchlines that could have been cheesy if they had tried to take themselves seriously. Overall, I really just enjoyed this book and read it all in one go (well, I had to sleep once, but that’s beside the point) I just sort of forsook what I should have been doing to get to John and Carter’s HEA.

If you read Kim Fielding regularly, you know you’re going to get certain things out of her novels. There are excellent plots, fantastic settings and always a few little details that will somehow have your jaw dropping. But what I like best about her writing, and about this story, are the layers of personal and interpersonal issues, drama and depth that she endows her characters with. There’s always more than one reason for a person to be however he is, and how those reasons interact and connect with the lives of others are, in this book, honestly astounding. It lives up to the name.

This was a bit of an odd book for me as it started out feeling like it was going to be one thing and then turned on a dime part way into the story. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you, just an odd thing. The cover as well, made it feel like I was getting a contemporary romance only to be surprised by the sci-fi aspect, so I didn’t get the vintage pulp-mag connection right away. I enjoyed the characters and the author included enough setting details throughout most of the book that I didn’t have to work as hard filling in the blanks. As someone who has never visited Yosemite, I would have appreciated more details about the area, but that was a small thing. I did feel at times that the emotional aspect of the relationship was a teensy bit heavy-handed here and there, but I enjoyed the story overall! My first time reading this author and based upon what I read, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another book by her.

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Tags: rainbow awards 2015

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