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.
Astounding! is the name of this book. It's also the name of a science fiction magazine that Carter founded with his long-ago boyfriend, Freddy. Now Freddy, married to nice guy Keith, is a well-known, wealthy book and screen writer, and Carter is broke, depressed, and on the verge of alcoholism. Freddy hasn't given up on Carter, but Carter has given up on himself.
In a fit of drunken rage, Carter writes a vitriolic rejection letter to one J. Harper, who keeps submitting crappy stories via snail mail about an alien wanting to go home.
Carter is bitter and jaded, but in a moment of sincere regret he drives all the way from Seattle to Portland to apologize to J. Harper, who looks like the 50s movie idol Tab Hunter.
John made my heart ache, what with his beautiful, sad face and little duplex full of mid-Century furniture and books. John invites Carter for pancakes. And Carter can't helped but fall a little for this shy, kind man who begs Carter to publish his story.
Meeting John changes Carter. John makes Carter believe that his magazine mattered, that Carter made people's lives better by letting them escape, if only for a little while. When he's with John, Carter can run faster, harder. He senses things, feels things deeply. Carter is not afraid, not anymore.
Carter wants John to stay, even if John believes that he's an alien and that his people will come to take him ... home. Except it's not home. Not anymore.
This is a story that explores the energy and connection that exist between two lonely men who come together physically and emotionally.
-A road trip to Yosemite in an RV that bites the dust
-Friends, including one persistent ex-boyfriend, who care enough to drag you on said road trip
-Suspiciously uncooperative electronics
-Tender, passionate love making between two men who make each other fly (in more ways than one)
-Guest appearances by Travis and Drew from Speechless, Ery and Karl from Bone Dry, and even William and Colby from The Tin Box
Kim Fielding is undoubtedly one of the best writers in this genre. She's an amazing writer. Period. Her prose flows and draws you in. Reading her stories is effortless. It's magic.
Regardless of your take on extraterrestrial life, this book will make you think, and cry a little.
Astounding! is wondrous! It's worthy of every exclamation point.
I stayed up until 2 a.m. reading this book. And I'm not sorry.