I just finished What Came from the Stars, and I loved it. I was somewhat annoyed by all the “foreign” words at first (“The quality of a Sci-Fi/Fantasy story is inversely proportional to the number of new words made up by the author.”), but then I started having fun trying to figure out exactly what they meant. Then, I got to the end and saw that there is a glossary. Duh!
Anyway, I looked for some other reviews on this one (Melissa’s review, Sondra’s review) because I remembered a couple of people saying that the book didn’t live up to their expectations. That in turn lowered my expectations, and I think that’s one reason I liked it so much. (I’m susceptible and contrary like that. I also thought Okay for Now by Mr. Schmidt should have won at least a Newbery Honor last year, another expectation which might be coloring my opinion.) I really liked the “ordinariness” of the hero, Tommy, and the theme of healing after tragedy and bravery in sacrifice, and the battle between the Valorim and the O’Mondrim. The evil real estate developer was a bit of a stereotypical plot device/character, but everything else worked for me.
The book alternates between an epic story of battle between good and evil on a planet far, far away and the poignant earthly story of Tommy and his sister Patty and their artist father who are trying to recover from their grief over the untimely death of Tommy’s mother. The language for the alternating parts of the story is very different, the two narratives are set apart from each other by different print, italic for the story of the Valorim and regular font for the story of how Tommy comes to encounter and help the Valorim in their fight against the darkness.
Chapter 1, The Last Days of the Valorim: “So the Valorim came to know that their last days were upon them. The Reced was doomed, and the Ethelim they had loved well and guarded long would fall under the sharp trunco of the faceless O’Mondim and the traitors who led them.”
Chapter 2, Tommy Pepper’s Birthday: “It was Tommy Pepper’s twelfth birthday, and for it he had unwrapped the dumbest birthday present in the history of the entire universe: an Ace Robotroid Adventure lunch box.”
The alternating chapters and the intersection of our world with that of a distant planet made my imagination happy. I’m ready to go visit the weoruld of the Ethelim, if I can just figure out how to travel at the speed of Thought. That’s the test of good world-building for me—if I want to go and see it for myself. (Or maybe in the cases of some dystopian worlds, if I really, really don’t want to see such a world ever.)
I think Narnia fans and Madeleine L’Engle fans (like me) would really like What Came from the Stars.