Book review | Remarkable Things Can Happen to Unremarkable People

Published 2018

Dear sci-fy reader,

In Hank Green’s debut novel, we take a close look at the human condition as it pertains to fame and fear of the unknown. Green said that he was influenced by the Dune series, but I found it showed more commonalities with 2001: A Space Odyssey by Anthony Clarke. Fortunately, it is not nearly as enigmatic as Space Odyssey but it keeps a similar pace and tone. I would even go so far as to say if you liked Clarke’s movie or book, you will enjoy An Absolutely Remarkable Thing.

The Full Review

The novel opens with the introduction of the main character, April May, who perceives herself destined for mediocrity. Then, ten foot tall statues show up in 67 cities across the world, and April May was the first person to record herself with one, which she named Carl. With the help of her friend Andy, April posts the video with Carl and it instantly goes viral. April May is thrust into stardom and she loves it.

April craves fame. Not for the money, but for the attention it gets her. Nothing is as addictive as the friends she makes in the form of followers to her Twitter account and her Facebook page. Standing for unity and peace, she strives to tell the world her message and what she believes is that of the aliens.

Pitted against a man she nicknames PP (his initials) who fears aliens and convinces a number of followers that the aliens mean humankind harm, she finds herself the target of haters. In the end, everyone must work to solve the alien riddle that haunts their dreams so humankind will be judged favorably. Through social media, April May influences people to work towards a common goal.

“She’s got a biography of Rodin that starts out with this line: ‘Fame, after all, is but the sum of all the misunderstandings which gather about a new name.’ I think she read that line a lot of times. Carl was always a canvas on which people would project their values and their hopes and their fears. April is going to become that now.” – Maya

The first 75% of the book reads slow and you find yourself asking, “what’s the point?” And, you are not sure if there is a message to find or if it’s just bad writing. There are a number of messages to be found, though the important thing to remember is that this is not an action packed novel but it is an in depth look at the human condition and social media’s role in that.

Green’s writing in clear and concise. The reader does not get lost in a preponderance of exposition which sometimes plagues new writers. April May is an Everyman that you quickly identify with and genuinely like. But she is human and as such, she is flawed. The reader has to decide whether or not to forgive her flaws and that in turn impacts your interpretation of the conclusion.

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