Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Carter Evans’ dream was to found a magazine that would change the world. He’s been editor-in-chief of Astounding!, a popular spec fiction magazine, for many years… but things aren’t going well. Now Carter lives in a dumpy apartment with little funds, few friends, an estranged family, and dreams dying with a magazine. Depressed and drinking too much, he snaps one night when he receives yet another terrible story submission from a writer named J. Harper. In a drunken haze, he sends out a scathing rejection letter. As regret settles in, Carter sets out to find the writer and apologize. J. Harper turns out to be John, a sweet man who resembles a ’50s movie star and claims to be an alien. Carter doesn’t believe John’s delusions, but that doesn’t keep sparks from flying between them. The two lonely men form a powerful connection and Carter invites him along on a road trip with two other friends. But Carter is in for a surprise when he discovers that John isn’t as delusional as he’d thought.
A fun and unusual read, with some nice touches of humor and the well-written, flowing prose that I’ve come to expect from this author. The story drew me in very quickly and while there were a couple sections where it read slow for me, these didn’t detract too much from an overall excellent story. The characters were wonderfully drawn. Carter wasn’t perfect, had a bit of softness around the middle at the start and did some stupid things—in other words, someone very easy to relate to. And John was just so sweet, as well as strong and determined which we see later in the story. The sparks that flew between them was hot, but also tender and sweet. And at times, bittersweet, because Carter and John encounter some road bumps along their journey.
Beyond just John and Carter, this story had some intriguing characters. Freddy, also known as Fred C. Morgan, is a famous writer, Carter’s ex-boyfriend, and also his closest friend. Now in a relationship with Keith, the love of his life, Freddy is an awesome character—the best friend we’d all love to have and a wonderful example of someone who is rich and famous but hasn’t let it go to his head or change him. Loved how the side relationship between Freddy and Keith evolved in this story. And the backstory of Freddy and Carter founding the magazine together and going on to become close friends after drifting apart. Also loved that while Freddy was awesome in so many ways, he wasn’t any sort of Adonis. In fact, this quote I loved sums up not only Freddy’s looks but also his personality perfectly. It also illustrates how skillfully this author seems to be able to do that in so few words:
“Freddy looked the same as he had for years: short, round, hairy. A particularly nasty reviewer had once referred to him as a troll who baited his slavering followers by murdering their favorite characters. Freddy had written in response, I am deeply offended by your assertions, sir. I identify as a gnome.”
There are also guest appearances by three other couples: Travis and Drew from the Speechless series, Karl and Ery from Dry Bones, and William and Colby from The Tin Box. I’ve read the first but not the other two, and the small taste of them makes me want more. I admire how the author weaves her stories together in what seems to be such an effortless and natural way.
The story had many things I enjoy: sci-fi, characters that are writers or artists, and road trips. The road trip element is well-done, taking us to various cool places like Yosemite but never letting the trip overwhelm the story. I also found it interesting how the author related John ‘coming out’ as an alien to coming out as gay.
In fact, in most of the books I’ve read by this author, she brings out little truths in unusual. I’m beginning to think of her as the fable-master in my head. Just one of the little things I loved in this one was how when we love someone, they tend to rub off on us in most unusual and unexpected ways. Or as it was said in the story: “when two people fall in love, they exchange a little of their energy.”
There are exclamation points after each chapter title in this book, and I’d say the story earned each one. Plus, the ending was wrapped up beautifully.
The cover by Paul Richmond is perfect the way it harks back to the old-style sci-fi book and magazine covers. All the elements, the RV, the stars, the guys and the retro feel blend wonderfully!
Book Details: 210 pages
Published June 26th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press