April May is walking the streets of New York City at 3 a.m. when she bumps into a huge statue she later names Carl. Assuming he is an art installation and impressed with his craftsmanship (Carl looks like a Transformer wearing samurai armor), April calls her friend Andy to help her make a video about the statue. Andy uploads the video to YouTube, and the next day, April awakes to viral internet stardom.
The Carls actually appeared in cities around the world, but as their first documentarian, April becomes their unofficial spokesperson. Swept up in the fame and power it has brought her, April must deal with the effects the Carls have had on her relationships, her identity, and her safety – all while trying to discover why the Carls are here to begin with. And what do they want?
April May is a very unlikable protagonist. But honestly, I think that works with what seems to be Hank Green’s overarching point.
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is more than a science fiction novel – although there is plenty of sci-fi going on! The book also explores the effects of fame, social media, and our culture of social dissociation and isolation in general.
Social media only portrays a fraction of the whole person, and when your online presence becomes the most important thing about you, when you have to live your life to uphold your “brand,” you’re probably pretty unlikable on a personal level (at least, that’s what this book would have us understand). As April becomes more famous and more publicly entwined with the narrative of the Carls, the more she drives away the people closest to her. On some level it’s intentional, and thanks to the first-person narrative we see much of April’s rationalization; but on the other hand, it seems almost inevitable.
The characters have some pretty overt commentary on the subject, with April herself even admitting: “No single person’s love can compete with even casual regard from a hundred million.” But the lesson remains evident: April gets herself into the worst trouble when she tries to be the Lone Ranger, while the most progress regarding the Carls is achieved when there is collaboration.
I can’t quite put my finger on what I enjoyed so much about this book. I could have found it preachy or trying too hard, since things like the race and sexuality of the characters were mentioned without them being essential or even important to the plot. And sci-fi isn’t usually a genre I am drawn towards, so I also could have found this boring or over my head. But while recognizing these potential downfalls, I still would wholeheartedly recommend this book.
The story is so creative and engaging. Critics have called it “cinematic” and I wasn’t quite sure what that meant – now I know because the whole time I was reading, I was thinking to myself, “I hope they make this into a movie!”
I am amazed at the twists and turns the plot took. The puzzles and mystery surrounding the Carls are just so mind-blowing. I hated every time I had to put this down…I just had to know what happened next!
And spoiler alert, apparently it’s the first in a series, and I CANNOT WAIT for the next book.