An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

A Novel

Book - 2018
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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 howthe 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"--
Publisher: New York, New York : Dutton, ©2018.
ISBN: 9781524743444
1524743445
Characteristics: 343 pages ;,24 cm.

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nthomas983
Feb 18, 2019

I could not put this book down. Loved the mystery and the suspense. I did not find Hank Green's prose as lovely as that of his brother, John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, Turtles All the Way Down), but the story was a lot faster moving than most of John's books. I would consider Hank a plot-driven author, whereas John is a character-driven author (and this is probably over-simplifying both of them, but if you're considering checking out this book because you're a fan of John Green's, just thought I'd offer the comparison).

Like other readers, I found April May really difficult to like at times...but I think that was part of the point. Humans are flawed creatures, and someone thrown into celebrity is going to make mistakes for which they will be judged by the world. I thought she seemed like a pretty realistic 20-something who became internet-famous overnight. I struggled with the ending a bit, because it is very open ended...but I see someone mentioned that this may be part 1 of 2, and I hope that's true. I will definitely be checking that out when it comes out!

r
Russ_A
Feb 09, 2019

I really tried to like this one, but just couldn’t. April May is a 20-ish bisexual artist/designer in New York. She happens upon a massive Transformer-like sculpture on the sidewalk one night and calls her friend Andy to come make a video. The robot, which she names Carl, appears simultaneously all over the globe in big cities. An advertising gimmick? Alien? Art? April becomes famous and her life goes to hell. The book was billed as science fiction but it’s more of a fantasy. There was little science in it and what there was did not make the plot even slightly plausible. It seems to be mostly about personal relationships and how people screw them up. Reviewers have called it witty but that’s lost on me. I just found it weird.

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gentlereader1003
Feb 05, 2019

I'm not the demographic at which this book was aimed, but I found much in it that satisfied me. It's most interesting as a meditation on the effects of unexpected fame.

I loved learning the details of the world famous people live in: that talk-show hosts not only pre-interview guests but sometimes pre-write and set up jokes for them to make; that high-powered agents will sometimes extend advances for super-expensive apartments and know they'll take the money out of a future check; that famous people often have two phones, one that is their personal phone and one that can be passed around to assistants who will update the person's social-media accounts.

The characters and plot felt less believable or interesting, perhaps because the novel is not Green's medium of choice and writing is not his first calling. I am not interested in the sci-fi aspects of this book at all; instead, it was not lost on me that I was seeing in a fun-house mirror many of Green's own experiences. I can't speculate on the author's insides, but I found this a haunting book. It will stay with me a long time.

If you're a fan of the Green brothers, read it; if you've watched videos made by YouTube sensations and loved them, or scratched your head and wondered about their appeal, read it; if you're interested in the role of the Internet in our rapidly changing world, read it, read it, read it.

z
zoeythekat
Feb 04, 2019

I am so so so so so so glad that I read this book. It was funny and poignant and interesting. I loved all of the characters so much.

MGBustillo Jan 26, 2019

April May is the center of the widely speculative event of “The Carls”. The large unknown statues suddenly appear all over the world and April May just happens to be there as the first to document their existence throwing her into limelight. Part science fiction and part social commentary, this is the debut novel of Hank Green brother of author John Green.

a
Arwinstein
Jan 23, 2019

I kinda hated this book but at the same time the mystery surrounding the aliens kept me going. So very disappointed at the ending which gave zero resolution (I've heard now this is book 1 of 2 so be warned)
The main character was a complete jerk. Yeah sure honest and self aware but seemingly incapable of any sort of change or ability to control her worse selfish impulses. How she had any friends at all was beyond me.
She supposedly wants to do good and bring people together but you only realize this about her when SHE TELLS you. Not once through any of her actions do we see anything remotely alturistic.
Such an annoying character. Not believable at all (and if people like this exist in the world then the future is dim indeed) Im not reading part 2!!

OPL_MichelleC Jan 17, 2019

This book had be crying in awe, if that's a thing. This was a beautiful and mysterious ride.

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booknrrd
Jan 10, 2019

April May stumbles upon a large sculpture one night when going home from work late at night. It looks kind of like a Transformer. She calls a friend, and they film a YouTube segment with "Carl". It goes viral, and the book kind of goes from there.

It's a little bit of a meditation of celebrity and power and a little bit of science fiction. I think real science fiction fans might be disappointed. I'm not really sure what I thought. I did expect more of an ending, and I'm left wondering if this is going to be a series or if it's just intentionally open and we're supposed to discuss it with friends. Friends, I have questions.

JessicaGma Jan 03, 2019

leslie_d_ has a great review of the book by Hank Green, which was a different sort of sci-fi novel very much rooted in our time. It's a great reflection of fame and social media as well. Definitely worth reading.

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leslie_d_
Dec 20, 2018

Science fiction novels are as concerned as any other form of literature with what it is or means to be human. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is more overt about that exploration than most. The reader is warned by the painfully straightforward narrator that this book about a first contact with aliens is also going to involve a lot of human drama—her human drama.

There are desires and relationships a flawed human April can have that her persona cannot. Her celebrity will leave her with few opportunities to be her human self. I’m not sure that is something the narrator wholly laments; her persona rarely seeming to get in her way but for its cooperative nature, the addiction it enables, and the hatred it begins to attract.

April May hints at the end consequences of her discovery and popularity near the beginning. The revelation is even more interesting than I’d expected. Why the Carls arrived are unsurprising, but why April May was chosen is delightful.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is not unlike the alien mystery itself, observing to better understand humankind. Not unlike the Carls themselves, whether as sculpture or alien presence, humankind, too, are absolutely remarkable things. Steeped in drama, occasionally infuriating, when humans come together for something, they can be breathtaking–even when perpetrating evil, human cooperation can inspire a deep awe. The novel advocates for perpetrating good, by the way—something Hank Green followers will be unsurprised to hear. The novel is also thoroughly smart and engaging—another something Green fans will have come to expect.

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