TL;DR Rating 3.5/5 An Absolutely Remarkable thing was not a bad read at all. According to the author’s notes, Hank Green is a YouTube creator and this is his first book. It’s locked in the Coming of Age genre because it centers around a 20-something young woman who stumbles upon fame and decides to ride the wave until the negative parts of fame rear its ugly head. It’s not a bad book at all. It’s well written, you get to the inciting incident almost immediately and as the story plays out you realize that a lot of what you thought might be completely wrong. There is an interesting science fiction element too but science fiction is the backdrop and not the main focus of the story. Unlike many reviews I’ve read I did not agree that April was unlikable. Before you remark on the stupid decisions she makes in the story reflect back on your 20-something life and ask yourself how many of those you made. Despite the flirtation with the “both-sides have bad people” argument – an argument I have a serious problem with – I can see that certain parts of how the author made the argument do make sense with the story. This is a pretty good first book and should be a part of your reading list.
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing – Sci-Fi or not Sci-Fi?
While coming home late at night a young woman named April happens upon a ten-foot samurai robot statue on 23rd Street in New York. She decides to make a YouTube video about it and when she wakes up the next morning she finds it has gone viral for a very interesting reason. As time goes on the world accepts that this statue and what came with it is alien in origin. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing doesn’t explicitly say “alien” but all clues uncovered and how people react implies strongly that this is an extra-terrestrial event. However, the book focuses on April, her fame, and how it affects her, her friends, and love, and sometimes the sci-fi elements pop in. This story focuses on the character which is a shame because I think there some very interesting science fiction elements I would love to have explored more.
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing – Is April Unlikable?
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing resonates with me because I’ve met April May so many times in my life. Black and white. I’ve been April May – making an absolutely insane and self-destructive decision without considering the cost. I know an April May now. I watched reviews because book reviews pop up in my YouTube suggestions because I watched a few of them before. I saw someone holding up this book and wanted to know what it was about. The reviewers who seemed to be April’s age all said she was completely unlikable. I admit to the old man bias in that I was sitting there thinking, “huh, live a little longer and then come back to April.” But a few of the Book reviews from people who seem to be within my age group was the same. And admittedly there were two characters – April’s girlfriend Maya and Miranda the science geek. But the story is from April’s perspective so they both get lost in April’s world view. I did not find April May unlikable. I found her young and headstrong with lingering puddles of “I know everything” that backwashes us all from being teenagers. I found her perfectly believable and while she found herself in danger from not thinking things through, I have seen that so much in my life I didn’t consider it something done simply for the sake of the story. At a point it becomes clear she is not just a person who stumbled upon an unusual event, the unusual event stumbled upon her. There some things that are easy to armchair quarterback about when you look at it from the outside. April’s character is a great example of that.
Hank Green put out a compelling story with interesting twists and an ending the felt like a bit of a cliffhanger. I know nothing about Hank Green. I tried watching his videos and they were okay but didn’t give me a sense of the man. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing had an interesting first-contact story with a lot of commentary on social media culture and the culture of shit-lords. I wish we knew more about the Carls by the end of the book. At least get an announcement of whether there’s going to be a second part. So much feels left unfinished with An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, and that might be intentional. The problem with debut books that until all the returns come in and you see how it sold you can’t predict where things are going. Otherwise, I’d recommend this book to both YA and Adult Sci-fi readers. There a lot of interesting questions about ourselves and our current culture raised to have An Absolutely Remarkable Thing in the zeitgeist and discussions on current culture.