Size Doesn’t Matter (196): At the Edge of the Universe; Carry On

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (196): At the Edge of the Universe; Carry OnAt the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson
Published by Simon Pulse on February 7, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Science Fiction
Pages: 496
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Tommy and Ozzie have been best friends since the second grade, and boyfriends since eighth. They spent countless days dreaming of escaping their small town—and then Tommy vanished.

More accurately, he ceased to exist, erased from the minds and memories of everyone who knew him. Everyone except Ozzie.

Ozzie doesn’t know how to navigate life without Tommy and soon suspects that something else is going on—that the universe is shrinking.

When Ozzie is paired up with the reclusive and secretive Calvin for a physics project, it’s hard for him to deny the feelings that develop between them, even if he still loves Tommy.

But Ozzie knows there isn’t much time left to find Tommy—that once the door closes, it can’t be opened again. And he’s determined to keep it open as long as possible.

Last year, I read my first Shaun David Hutchinson, We Are the Ants, and it was dark, weird, thought-provoking, and really well-crafted. All of that applies to At the Edge of the Universe too. This is going to be a tough book to review, even in short format, because it’s a deeply strange book that’s hard to quantify, and I’m not sure to what degree I “got” it, but wow was it good.

Given how different We Are the Ants and At the Edge of the Universe are in concept, they have a whole lot of similarities in terms of tone and sheer weirdness. Both novels center on main characters who are potentially deeply unreliable narrators. In At the Edge of the Universe, Ozzie is the only person who remembers his best friend and boyfriend Tommy. One day Tommy just disappeared from the narrative, leaving Ozzie behind alone with everyone thinking he’s insane. Is Ozzie right? Did Tommy disappear? Is the universe shrinking?

Though not similar in tone, I couldn’t help thinking of the UTTER BRILLIANT show Wonderfalls, which is about a girl who has an “episode” after which animal toys tell her to do things. In the show, you don’t know if she’s gone insane or if the messages are divine or what. There’s a similar vibe here, and the way everything unravels is excellent storytelling. View Spoiler » Ozzie struggles with how to go on, the only person aware that something’s deeply wrong in the universe. His friends and family want him to move on, and Ozzie himself is conflicted about his feelings for another boy in his class.

Listen, guys, I really don’t know what to tell you about this book, because it’s really hard to discuss, and I don’t want to give anything away. It’s super excellent and will absolutely make you think. I need to read all of Hutchinson’s backlist because damn he’s brilliant.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

Size Doesn’t Matter (196): At the Edge of the Universe; Carry OnCarry On by Rainbow Rowell
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on October 6, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 522
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.

Truth be told, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to Carry On, despite how much I loved Fangirl. The Simon Snow fandom was about the only thing I didn’t adore in that book, and I also just wasn’t sure about a novel that basically began as Drarry fan fiction in another book. Now that I’ve actually read it, I can see that Carry On‘s very different from Harry Potter, but, sadly, it didn’t live up to Rowell’s other books for me.

Partially, I’m sure this is a matter of expectation. I love Rowell’s books a lot. She’s brilliant at contemporary novels, and I suppose I feel like fantasy doesn’t suit her quite as well, though obviously that’s going to be a matter of opinion. Rowell’s prose remains wonderful, and I really loved Simon’s POV.

There were two main issues I had with Carry On, the first of which was that the world and the mood really didn’t seem to fit together. The world Rowell created is clever and unique (magic is based on the usage of common phrases imbued with power!); that’s a really cool idea, but it’s also a very inherently comedic one, since, when someone wants to clean something, they might shout “Out damn spot!” Like, this is absolute comedic gold while also being a really neat idea. It’s just not a bit of world building that lends itself particularly well to gravity, as it’s chock full of hilarious pop culture references.

Many of the character names and plot elements are also moderately to highly comedic. The character dynamics and the tone of the book as a whole, however, runs darker. Simon is deeply sad, especially at the start, and I found the blending of these two things jarring.

The other issue for me is a common fantasy problem: the usage of far too many POVs. My general rule, which isn’t a hard-and-fast one but a good guideline, is that, any POV that generally isn’t over a page or two, you can do without. Pretty much everyone in the book gets at least one POV chapter, and it completely detracts from both the flow of the story and the tension. Every time I hit a Lucy or Agatha chapter, I wanted nothing to do with the book for a while afterward.

The mass of POVs takes away from time with Simon and Baz. The book would have been much better with just their POVs, and maybe Penelope’s. As it was, I felt like the romance leaned heavily on the readers’ knowledge of Drarry and on the readers being glad to have m/m. The book picked up when Baz finally appeared (on PAGE 150 hdu), but I wish we’d seen the feelings really build. Instead, Baz was already in love with Simon, and, once the kissing starts, Simon’s just kinda like ‘huh okay’ which is fine but not like the shippiest thing ever.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh with this rating, but I find myself completely torn on this book, so my rating reflects that. Also, it took me almost a full month to chug through this one (mostly the Baz-less first half), and that’s not a great sign.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:


5 responses to “Size Doesn’t Matter (196): At the Edge of the Universe; Carry On”

  1. Thelma says:

    I’m very intrigued about Hutchinson’s books but I don’t know if that book would be the best one to start with… Most of his books seem very heavy and I’m rarely in the mood for this kind of books. I’ve been trying to get more into scifi though so I’ll try to keep that one in mind.
    I’m sorry you had to crawl through Carry On. Personally I love it. I reread it recently to get out of a slump. But the slump had been caused by a book that had me feeling like you with Carry On : I was very torn about it and I didn’t know whether to push through or dnf it. Plus those books are a bit long. Books that fall right in the middle like that are the worst to me. Because I have no motivation to pick them up but at the same time I don’t have a good enough reason to dnf them… Anyhow. Enough nonsense. Thanks for the reviews!

    • Christina Franke says:

      I’ve only read the two Hutchinson books, and I’m right with you in them not usually being the sort of thing I like to read. They’re very sad. And they’re on the border between sci-fi and MH-focused contemporary, so I’m not sure that I’d recommend them if you’re craving science fiction specifically. They’re really well-crafted, but I do read them kind of slowly because SAD.

      I’m really bummed about Carry On. I think partly it was all the hype. I remember Gillian’s shippy awards, they were battling it out with Simon/Blue and Ronan/Adam, which really had me expecting more shippiness from this ship. As I said, I do get it, but the book really felt like a mish mash to me. I also hate the ones that aren’t quiiiiiiiite DNF-able but that I can’t get through with anything remotely resembling speed.

      • Thelma says:

        I’m all set for hard sci-fi and space operas. I wanna give a try to some more lowkey scifi so I might try We Are The Ants. I think. I’ll have to wait because it is not the season to read sad books.
        I love how the ship feels in Carry On because it really felt like fanfiction to me. More the ones where they’re already in love and need to get their act together than the ones where they fall in love. But I love both so I was a happy costumer there. I also really loved all the Harry Potter ‘commentary’ in Carry On. I know some people have trouble with that. I’m still glad she didn’t write more than one book because I feel like the plot is a little light ^^

        • Christina Franke says:

          Both We Are the Ants and At the Edge of the Universe are on a cross-section between sci-fi and contemporary, to the degree that at the end you’re really hard-pressed to say which was actually the genre. They’re almost metaphysical rather than being science fiction. They’re really good, obviously, but I don’t want to hand-sell them as sci-fi.

          Yeah, I like to see my ships fall in love; I generally feel a bit distanced from the romance if I come in during the middle. My favorite part is the moment the feelings shift, which is why I love hate to love and characters who are afraid of feelings and friends to lovers where there’s a distinct, sudden catalyst that causes the change.

          • Thelma says:

            Okay, it’s good to know this before I try this book because I would’ve expected sci-fi from the synopsis. But I like contemps, so if this is somewhere between the two I should be fine as long as I know about it beforehand. Thanks!
            Seeing the ship falling in love it the best. I love slow burns where you see them fall in love and then be together for a bit. But that only happen in long series 🙁
            Hate to love and characters who are afraid of their feelings are some of the best romance tropes to me. I’m not a fan of friends to lovers though. I love a good friendship and generally the book doesn’t sell the shift to romance well enough to me.
            But yeah, I can see why not seeing how they fell in love can be disatisfying. It’s just so good when you see them finding common ground and starting to get to know each other. One of my favorite thing is when I realize they fell in love a bit before the characters do just because of their action. It always make me grin like an idiot. Anyhow, enough rambling. Sorry about that ^^

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