Warning – possible spoilers! (Tiny ones, though, and I’ll try to avoid even those; I swear I’ll give my best not to ruin it for you… :-))
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing – Book Details
TITLE – An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
SERIES – The Carls, book #1
AUTHOR – Hank Green
YEAR PUBLISHED – 2018
PAGE COUNT – 343
MY RATING – 4.5 of 5
RATED ON GOODREADS – 4.03 of 5
What It Is About
Has the city that never sleeps become the city that’s too cool to notice even the most peculiar and astounding occurrences?
In New York City, while going home from work at 3 AM, twenty-three-year-old April May passes by a statue that seems to have appeared out of nowhere. With her friend Andy, she makes a video of the statue (she calls it Carl) and uploads it to YouTube.
By the time she wakes up the next morning, her life and the whole world have changed.
It turns out – the video went viral because these mysterious sculptures have appeared in dozens of other big cities around the world. It soon becomes clear that the only explanation for this phenomena is some form of extraterrestrial life.
As someone who first posted about them, April is now the most famous person in the world. And she tries to embrace it and use her newfound fame to make a positive change in the world. But she will soon discover that there are no many things more corruptive than fame and social media popularity…
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing – My Review
If you get anything out of this, ideally it won’t be you being more or less on one side or the other, but simply understanding that I am (or at least was) human.
Wow, I didn’t expect to love this book this much. Many people had mixed feelings about it, but I thought it was fun and exciting, compelling, gripping and I just couldn’t put it down.
I also thought it was perfect for summer – though it explored many heavier topics, like humanity, fame and social media obsession, it managed to retain lightness.
I really liked Hank Green’s writing style – it made the book so easy to fly through.
Also loved how much research he put into it. From bouncing ideas on what these Carl things might be and how to solve certain parts of the mystery to the amount of detail casually slipped into April’s experiences at the designer school. Nothing ever felt too much or over explained. But never for a second did I doubt this girl really went through it all.
“You’re a digital girl, April, in a digital world. We all know how to perform.”
I know many people found April annoying, but to me she was such a perfect MC. She was very flawed, but her flaws were endlessly relatable and easy to understand if not agree with. I had no problem loving her even while not liking many things she did.
If there was one thing this book accomplished, it was making me ask myself if I would act the same as April if I were in her shoes. And of course, when I just think about it, the answer is clearly no.
Then again, I’m sure a lot of people would say the same thing, and yet when things do really happen to you personally, everything suddenly looks much different. It’s scary. And exciting. And you kind of want to see where it may lead.
April’s way of processing things, though, wasn’t to try and find out as much as she can about them, but to put as much of it as she could under control. Of course, it soon turned out that the control was just an illusion. As delicate and fragile as her status of a “special human”.
You can only do so much pretending before you become the thing you’re pretending to be.
What annoyed me to no end and fascinated me at the same time was with what passion and conviction April defended her side of the story even though she had absolutely no proof or reason to believe it truth. Her response was often – here’s why the opposing side was wrong; but there wasn’t much she could tell on why she was right.
And if you think her decisions didn’t make sense at the beginning of the book, just wait. Because as the story progresses, so does the descent into irrational behavior.
There was nothing reasonable about many of the choices she made, the signs of addiction and obsession were clearly there. Yet, the beauty of this book was that I could totally understand how someone in her position might not see it, to the point that it almost made her completely innocent, if a little naive, in my eyes.
Also, her drive was kind of contagious. Though we were clearly told from the beginning what she was doing won’t end well, I just had to follow her there, completely gripped by her compulsive rushing into things.
I think deep down I was terrified (…) that one day, the most interesting and important thing about me would be a thing that I did a long time ago.
The side characters were also great, loved the crew. Maya, Andy, Miranda, Robin… they all felt distinctive and each of them added a unique perspective on April’s status as a famous person.
There were occasions when I thought they could have been developed a bit better. But maybe that was intentional, to emphasize April’s self-centered side.
Something I didn’t particularly like – April’s self-reflection moments were a bit overkill. Throughout the whole book there were just so many menacing hints and glimpses into what’s to come. The first few times it was intriguing, but after a while you just gotta think – yes, we get it, you screwed up and it won’t end well.
Now, of course, I know how easy it is to feel like you don’t matter if no one’s watching.
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing was definitely more a contemporary than a sci-fi. Though the SF moments were ever present and very interesting, the book was focused more on the exploration of social media and overnight fame.
It also asked a few interesting questions about the human kind. Specifically – would a huge, global-wide, unexplainable, practically impossible event unite us, divide us or simply remain a sensation for a while.
And I thought that part was done so well.
But if it were up to me, I would probably put the main focus on the SF aspect of the story and leave the social commentary in the background. There were a few aspects of the sci-fi that could have been done a bit more realistic. (Yes, even for a science fiction.) And I also wish we got to explore the whole thing more.
Because we got quite a bit of assumptions and speculation, but surprisingly little actual answers on these beings that suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
The ending – on one hand it felt super satisfying to me. But on the other – I’m so glad there’s a sequel. I’m counting on it to enlighten a few things for me. Because where I’m at right now – I’m not exactly sure what the main point of this book was.
Like – ok, there were several smaller points being made very successfully. But I’m talking about the big questions. Why Carls came. And were they good or bad for “us”.
Even on this most terrible of days, even when the worst of us are all we can think of, I am proud to be a human.
Honestly, right now it seems that the level of unity they managed to evoke in people fades in comparison to what kind of effect they had on the human that was closest to them.
Because April goes through a lot of changes since the moment she made that video. And we get to see all the good, the bad and the ugly of it. Her wellbeing, mental state, emotional stability or even humanity and capability to make rational decisions… It all slowly spirals out of control the more you get into the book.
There were several other things I hope the sequel will answer. Many things happened (or didn’t happen) that just weren’t explained at all. And I need to know what was going on.
So, yeah – really glad I read this and looking forward to A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor…