An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
Written by: Hank Green
Read by: Kristen Sieh & Hank Green
9 Hours and 30 Minutes
PHA | Imprint: Penguin Audio
Genre: Fiction – Coming Of Age
Release Date: September 25, 2018
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.
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 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–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. And all eyes are on April to figure 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 for the same dehumanization that follows a life in the public eye. The beginning of an exciting fiction career, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is a bold and insightful novel of now. https://www.penguinrandomhouseaudio.com/book/576279/an-absolutely-remarkable-thing/
This book is so good! It’s so good, I listened to most of it twice. It’s full of April May’s optimism. She’s a savvy young woman who is quick and intelligent, but not entirely altruistic. She’s optimistic, and filled with a twenty-something’s continued belief in her immortality.
But, for me, this story was about a few other things. Our divided culture: belief-based, versus fact-based groups where a few individuals can spur the worst in humanity’s primitive brain-bits on to violence. It’s about how pushing those issues in the media can be almost impossible to counter. It’s also about how tech savvy the younger world is and the myriad ways – some which I don’t get – are being used; how global tech has made us.
The book is also about faith. Now, as someone without religion (or one who sent the various religions in my life packing), I have always thought it would be interesting to be faced with a real unknown. When these giant things appear across the globe, most of the world doesn’t take it as a sign that humanity is being favored by “god” (whichever one that might be). It’s vaguely reminiscent of the myths of some religions when a prophet would appear. Often those prophets are not lauded but bloodied.
I would dearly love to see what might happen in today’s religions should we be as peacefully approached by something like “Carl.” Or, after reading AN ABSOLUTELY REMARKABLE THING, perhaps not so much. It’s a bit of a Messianic theme, but not too much. There’s no religion; it’s more like how people think about these types of things. Not, that we have huge, shiny metal statues simultaneously appearing in the middle of large cities. But, when things we don’t get happen we dismiss it. There’s also a bit of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS in that it looks at what happens when humanity experiences something across the globe; when people are compelled to do something en masse.
The writing is witty and not being good with names, I didn’t realize before that the author, Hank Green, is one of the Vlogbrothers. I always thought the duo was super smart and witty. I used to watch them a lot in the days when I had spare time.
April May, whose parents were amusing in their name-giving protocol, but who also raised a self-reflective person with an open-mind. Saying that, though, doesn’t mean she is perfect; April May can be very self-interested, impulsive and short-sighted.
While I keep, in my own head, seeing her as one particular actress, Busy Philips, because it’s told in the first person, she could easily be anyone you see in your own head, or even yourself. This character is nuanced and complicated. I love that she is pan-sexual, an orientation which, to an oldie like me, seems so modern and like something that will end up being a force for great social change. On the other hand, she does “sell-out” on this a bit early. The other characters are pretty much her satellites and are entirely described, not in much detail, by April May.
The narrator was great: they must have auditioned dozens to decide on this one woman whose voice particularly portrays April’s age, smarts, background and personality. She’s bubbly, confused, energetic, tired, jaded…. Perfect.
The book ends with some uncertainty so I really, really hope there’s a sequel. This is a definite favorite book this year!
AUTHOR on FB: https://www.facebook.com/hankgreen
AUTHOR Website: lots of links but not a lot of content: https://www.hankgreen.com/