We All Looked Up is the debut novel by Tommy Wallach. It tells the story of an asteroid on a potential collision course with Earth as told from the alternating viewpoints of four high school students. The four form a karass (no, I hadn’t heard of it either): a group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner.
Peter is the well-rounded jock, Mr Popularity, who is starting to have an existential crisis as the book opens. Eliza has a sad home life and covers up her misery with a succession of one night stands. Andy is the skateboarding stoner with neglectful parents, coasting along his school career until the education system spits him out. Anita is the uptight overachiever with pushy parents. They’re archetypes that crop up in every high school book, and in real life too, and in some respects it kind of felt like The Breakfast Club meets The Stand. Which is obviously awesome.
The four protagonists are really likeable despite their many flaws and you really end up caring about them. There are also some proper-rotten baddies for you to get your teeth into.
I really liked the fact that the trajectory of Ardor is never completely certain. When it’s first spotted in the sky, it is thought that it will bypass Earth completely, but it changes course and when the big announcement comes astrologers believe there is a 66% chance of a collision and a 33% chance it will bypass completely. The Internet, electricity and phone lines all go down before the exact path of the asteroid can be communicated to the world.
It was such an interesting plot point. The fact that there is a 66% chance of collision still allows people to hope - and it’s not just a fleeting hope - but people are still forced to live with total annihilation being a distinct possibility.
Tommy Wallach doesn’t delve into worldwide reactions to the coming apocalypse, other than fleeting mentions of riots in various cities. He keeps the plot very local and concentrates on the reactions of the four protagonists thoroughly, as well as the reactions of a few other minor characters and concludes that people do get way existential when they’re faced with a six week wait for very-likely death, but that actually, yes, people do still think about sex and love and petty squabbles when the destruction of the human race is literally staring them in the face. He looks at the ways the members of the karass impact on each other and the way they face their destinies.
I really enjoyed We All Looked Up. It didn’t leave me with that breathless got-to-skip-back-to-the-beginning-so-I-can-read-it-all-again feeling, but it definitely gave me a lot to think about. And be thankful for.