Book Talk: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

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

Book Talk: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank GreenAn Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
Narrator: Kristen Sieh
Length: 9 Hours, 30 Minutes
Series: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing #1
Published by Penguin Audio on September 25, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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In his much-anticipated debut novel, Hank Green--cocreator of Crash Course, Vlogbrothers, and SciShow--spins a sweeping, cinematic tale about a young woman who becomes an overnight celebrity before realizing she's part of something bigger, and stranger, than anyone could have possibly imagined.

The Carls just appeared. Coming home from work 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--everywhere from Beijing to Buenos Aires--and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.

Now April has to deal with the pressure on her relationships, her identity, and her safety that this new position brings, all while being on the front lines of the quest to find 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 from the same dehumanization that follows a life in the public eye.

I’ll admit that I read this solely because it’s by Hank Green but honestly I don’t know much about Hank Green aside from the fact that he’s brother to John Green. Maybe I’ve seen a YouTube video with him in it or a MentalFloss post he wrote, but I’m honestly not sure. As a result, I went into this knowing basically nothing with pretty much no expectations. That may have helped me maybe, though it’s a tough call. I definitely had a lot of fun listening to this book, but I’m not totally sure how I feel?

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing tells the story of April May, who becomes famous by accident when she and her best friend Andy film a vlog about the mysterious new Transformers-esque art installation in NYC only to find out that this is so much more than that. April makes a conscious decision to pursue fame after that initial flash of success rather than letting it be her fifteen minutes. April’s an interesting character to get a hold of for a couple of reasons. 1) She’s telling the story retroactively, so she’s very clearly picking which things she wants the audience to know, which makes her an unreliable narrator. 2) She lies quite frequently, which also makes her unreliable. 3) She’s not even sure which parts of her are persona and which are really April anymore, which again makes her unreliable.

April’s not particularly likable or sympathetic, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call her unlikable either. I neither love nor hate April. She makes a lot of poor decisions, but they’re very relatable. If everything weren’t being explained by past April who has the wisdom to know why she was doing what she was doing, I think I might have felt more sympathetic, ironically. April pushes everyone close to her away, because she doesn’t understand why anyone would like her, preferring the empty adoration of her growing number of fans. More than anything, April feels like a prime example of a Millennial and of what happens when sudden fame hits. There’s a huge undercurrent to this book that deals with the way that fame changes a person.

Just a heads up that, if you’re here for the bi rep or f/f relationship, you might be a bit disappointed. Not that I thought the rep or relationship were bad per se, but April May spends some of the book pretending to be a lesbian rather than bi to simplify the narrative at the recommendation of her agent (this is categorized as a bad choice, but still probably not the rep people are dreaming of). And, so far as the relationship goes, this book follows the fictional law that, if a couple is together at the start, they will not still be together at the end. However, April May is bisexual and does have relationships with women.

The science fiction aspects aren’t the central aspect of the book, which is what I would have expected. It’s a bit more like Newsflesh in the sense that the sci fi stuff largely forms a background to highlight political problems. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing very much centers on the political tensions in the US right now. It’s quite overt in its parallels, and it’s more political commentary than anything else. That’s not super unusual for science fiction, but it’s unusually obvious here. It works, but I’ll admit that everything did feel a bit overly idealistic and unrealistic compared to how things are actually shaking out. Then again, it may have been written with the idea of Hillary as president, as the good guys here have a strong female president on their side.

Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about the “transformer” stuff yet, mostly because not a whole lot has actually happened with that yet. The sci fi plot line reminds me most of Ready Player One, and it did feel a bit manufactured. Also, it’s third on the list of this things this novel felt like it was about, so consequently it felt less important. Still, I’m reserving judgment until I read the next book, because so much of how I feel about a plot like this one will depend on whether things make sense in the end, which they definitely do not at the end of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. It would have helped if I had known this was the start of a series, because I definitely finished the book and was like EXCUSE ME WHAT KIND OF ENDING IS THAT, but I got on GR and found there was a sequel and it all made sense.

The audiobook was super awesome. Kristen Sieh does an amazing job as April May. Admittedly, much of my love is because Sieh’s voice reminds me heavily of Rachel Bloom’s (aka the star of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and I love her. It also made me picture Emily May as a younger Rebecca Bunch which totally works.

So, on the whole, I very much enjoyed reading this book, but it’s also just one of those books where I won’t really know how I feel about it until I’ve finished the series. ‾\_(ツ)_/‾

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

One response to “Book Talk: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green”

  1. Lindsi says:

    Hmm — I’ve been curious about this one, and yours is the first review I’ve read. I don’t really like unlikable characters (unless they’re supposed to be awful), but I think unreliable might be worse. How are you supposed to believe anything about her or her story when she lies and only tells you what she wants you to know? It does sound like an interesting perspective, though. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?
    Lindsi recently posted…Phoenix Unbound (Fallen Empire, #1) by Grace DravenMy Profile

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