A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor

The Carls disappeared the same way they disappeared, in an instant. While the robots were on Earth, they caused confusion and destruction with only their presence. Part of their maelstrom was the sudden viral fame and untimely death of April May, a young woman who stumbled onto the Carls’ path, giving them their name, becoming their advocate, and putting herself in the middle of an avalanche of conspiracy theories.

Months later, April’s friends are trying to find their footing in a post-Carl world. Andy has picked up April’s mantle of fame, speaking at conferences and online; Maya, ravaged by grief, begins to follow a string of mysteries that she is convinced will lead her to April; and Miranda is contemplating defying her friends’ advice and pursuing a new scientific operation … one that might have repercussions beyond anyone’s comprehension. Just as it’s starting to seem like the gang may never learn the real story behind the events that changed their lives forever, a series of clues arrive — mysterious books that seem to predict the future and control the actions of their readers — all of which suggest that April could very much be alive.

The sequel to An Absolutely Remarkable Thing was both more complex and abstract, but it was refreshing to have multiple points of view in the story, because honestly, April was kind of annoying. Andy, Maya, and Miranda told most of the story through vignettes.

However, Andy’s storyline really stood out, and not in a good way. Eventually, he’s addicted to the technology at Altus, Peter Petrawicki’s company founded after the disappearance of the Carls. His friends are angry with him for spending so much time using it, and I found myself being very judgmental as well. Which is really silly as well as really scary. Silly because Andy is a fictional character, so he doesn’t exist, and scary because people judge my use of technology the same way I was judging Andy’s — they think I’m addicted.

It got so scary I actually had to put down the book for awhile to stop myself from judging Andy and thinking about my own relationship with technology.

When I finally picked it up again, things got a lot more interesting and action packed, so,putting my personal issues aside, I have no complaints about the book.


An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

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 samurai armor – April and her best 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. All eyes are on April to figure out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

Hank Green may have published his debut novel in 2018, but it’s just as relevant now as it was then. It wouldn’t be a surprise if it ended up being timeless.

It’s not just a sci-fi mystery, although it’s definitely a good book as far as genre is concerned. It’s a commentary on fame and the pursuit of it.

In the beginning of the novel, April May is a normal person just like the rest of us. However, as her fame begins to grow, it changes her. Eventually, it gets to the point where she’s consumed by what her audience thinks about the Carls, and about her. She’s almost constantly on social media, producing new content because she feels like she has to or else she won’t matter anymore because people will just move on to other headline making news. Obviously, this puts a strain on her personal relationships.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is also a commentary on how divided America – and maybe the world at large – is today. When April starts to go on television to talk about the Carls and how she believes they are a force for good, another group – people who call themselves the Defenders because they want to defend humanity from the Carls because no one knows what they are – arises in opposition. It’s eerily similar to what’s happening in politics today.

So much of Hank Green’s humor is in this book it’s hard not to laugh. He uses a lot of exclamation points though, some where it doesn’t seem necessary to do so. But that might just be they way April talks and tells the story. His disclaimers in the book are unique. April, as the narrator, tells the reader they can skip over some parts if they don’t want to read them. All in all, the sci-fi parts are a bit complex, but An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is worth reading.