Monday, June 10, 2019

Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

by Hank Green
Series: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing #1
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Contemporary
Publication date: September 25, 2018
Published by: Dutton
Paperback, 343 pages
Rating: 3.5/5 ★

The Carls just appeared.

Roaming through New York City at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship—like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor—April and her friend, Andy, make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day, April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world—from Beijing to Buenos Aires—and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.

Seizing the opportunity to make her mark on the world, April now has to deal with the consequences her new particular brand of fame has on her relationships, her safety, and her own identity. And all eyes are on April to figure out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

Compulsively entertaining and powerfully relevant, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing grapples with big themes, including how the social internet is changing fame, rhetoric, and radicalization; how our culture deals with fear and uncertainty; and how vilification and adoration spring for the same dehumanization that follows a life in the public eye. The beginning of an exciting fiction career, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is a bold and insightful novel of now.

Going into this book, there were some things that I wasn't aware of that I wish I would've known. And that's all on me, because I wanted to go into this blind, it just turned out to not be the best option for once. First of all, I really wasn't aware that this was a sci-fi book. I bought the book after reading the first page or so at the book store. The writing style was fun and easy to read and immediately pulled me in, so I bought it. I thought it was simply the story of someone who went viral online and became famous over night. Turns out, there was a little more to the plot, and at first I couldn't really get into the whole sci-fi aspects of the story. With time, though, the Carls grew on me, and I became more invested in the mystery of their existence.

The second thing I hadn't been aware of until I actually finished the book is that it's the start of a series. This became painfully clear with the huge cliffhanger at the end, however, and I haven't really decided yet how I feel about that. From goodreads, it looks like it's just going to be a duology, and we'll have to see if I feel like picking up the sequel once it's published. 

Overall, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing turned out to be a really enjoyable read, though. I listened to the biggest chunk of it on audiobook, which in this instance helped keeping me going, and I'm glad I did. I really liked the voice of our main character April and the way the story was written as if the narrator was really just telling you what happened to her. The plot for the most part centres around the mystery of the Carls, these giant statues that appeared all over the world, but it also treated the sudden fame that April found in a very interesting and real way. I especially enjoyed reading about this going-viral part of the story, as it fascinates me and I can't really imagine how people deal with it in real life. I was expecting April to become a little more of a controversial, hard-to-love kind of protagonist, but she actually turned out to be more likeable and clever (for the most part) than I thought. She definitely had her flaws, which made her feel very human and real to me, and made reading from her perspective all the more enjoyable. 

I decided to go with a 3.5 star rating because although, especially towards the end, I did get sucked into the story, I was never 100% invested in the characters or the mystery elements of the plot. I just didn't really cared enough about what happened. Still, the easy-to-read writing and entertaining and sometimes absurd plot overall made for an enjoyable read.

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