I found out about An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green from watching his channel ‘The Vlogbrothers’ on YouTube, made up of him and his brother, John Green. Because I have followed their channel for years and have been a fan of his brother’s writing as well, I was well excited to read Hank’s debut novel. It turned out to be one of the most interesting books I have read in 2018. I finished reading it in two days, which is pretty fast for me. In fact, I feel like I could have finished it in one day, had it not been for the need of eating and sleeping. So without further ado, I will try to convince you to read it as well, hopefully without spoiling the story too much.
Green’s page-turner centres around a young woman, April May, who lives in New York City. She discovers a mysterious, gigantic robotic statue late at night on her commute home. April, thinking it is the most beautiful piece of art she has ever seen, calls her friend and tells him to bring his camera. Together they make a video about it and post it on YouTube. In her video she interviews the statue and gives it the quirky name ‘Carl’. She urges the viewer to not walk past remarkable art like Carl but to stand still and take in its beauty.
The next day, April wakes up to shocking news; numerous Carl statues have appeared all over the world, leaving everyone to wonder where they have come from. April’s video has gone viral, because it is one of the first public recordings of the Carls. April is now considered something of an expert on the Carls and soon finds herself famous by speaking up about them across various forms of media such as twitter and youtube. Her fame grows as the mystery surrounding the Carls grows larger and larger. It soon becomes clear that they are more than just a piece of art or an elaborate marketing stunt. They are something… more.
Written in a very informal, conversational tone, Green is a master of blending genres. The contemporary and sci-fi elements make the book surprising and intriguing. On the one hand we have plot about internet fame and the responsibilities it brings along. On the other we have a mystery adventure about aliens and the reaction humanity has to them. Separately, these themes would have been interesting enough to fill a novel, but together they form an original mix.
The book forces you to think about philosophical questions regarding fame. What happens when the people around you see you more as an idol than as a real person? How can you stay grounded when that happens? How far will a person go to stay relevant? These questions frame the mysterious plot about the Carls. The narrative takes interesting twists and turns as April, her friends and the rest of humanity find out more and more about them.
In conclusion, the book is gripping, mysterious and a little disturbing at times. It is funny and relatable but does not shy away from hard hitting issues. And lastly, when you finish reading it, it leaves you aching for more. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing can be easily read by people who normally do not really enjoy sci-fi but favour contemporary fiction and vice versa. One last spoiler-y note: you will be left with a cliffhanger! This is not a bad thing in my opinion because there is going to be a sequel, which I am very excited about. There is so much more to tell about April, her friends and the Carls.