Hank Green's "An Absolutely Remarkable Thing": aliens vs social media fame vs polarization
Hank Green (previously) is one half of the famous and much-loved Vlog Brothers; while his brother John Green (previously) is well-known for his novels, Hank hasn't ventured into fiction -- until now. His debut novel, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is a deceptively romp-y novel about mysterious samurai alien robot statues appearing all at once, everywhere that has hidden and absolutely remarkable depths.
April May is a debt-haunted art-school grad with a terrible job working on a worse app for a Manhattan startup that pays her enough to cover half the rent on the one-bedroom she shares with her girlfriend, but demands so much of her time that they hardly see each other.
Late one night, as she is leaving her terrible job, she sees a wonderful work of art: a giant statue of a transformer-style samurai robot that someone has installed on 23rd Street. She calls her best friend Andy, dragging him out of bed at 2AM to come down to the corner and film a funny vlog spot they can upload to his moribund YouTube channel.
Then April goes home and crashes and when she wakes up, the world has changed forever. The robot -- April had dubbed him "Carl" in her snarky video -- has twin brothers in major cities all over the world. They are towering, motionless, identical, and mysterious.
April has gone viral. She is suddenly in demand on TV shows, pulling in $10,000 per appearance (Andy's dad is a high-powered LA entertainment lawyer), landing a top-tier agent, flying all over the country -- and solving odd, niggling mysteries about Carl.
The novel follows April's transformation into a world-famous star, someone who self-consciously seeks, cultivates and performs fame and power, who is also self-conscious enough to know that she's doing it and is articulate about why she's doing it. It's as true a look into the odd and mysterious world of fame and attention as I've ever read, and it has the feeling of material that has come straight from the most honest and uncomfortable depths of Hank Green's own introspection.
The Carls have mysteries after mysteries: they appear to be aliens, they can haunt our dreams with strange logic puzzles (the B-story in this novel is a sweet cross between Ender's Game and Ready Player One), and they are a flashpoint for public opinion, splitting the world into two camps: people who believe that the Carls are an occasion for humanity to unite and become part of something larger, and paranoid, angry human chauvinists whose half-baked Darwinism and prepper-style macho terror is a perfect parable for the current life-stage of the internet tough-guy, the latest manifestation of the gamergate brain-parasite.
Green's understanding of the power and limits of social media is incomparable; what Douglas Coupland did for the elation and misery of the tech-bubble with Microserfs, Green does for YouTubers and other social media stars. It makes for a novel that's always charming, always fast-paced, but which is sneakily and uncomfortably ambivalent about the things it celebrates. It gallops to a startling and great ending (I read it all in one sitting) and lingers afterwards.
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing [Hank Green/Dutton]
(Image: Jay Isaac, CC-BY-SA)
Joel Bonasera liked my novel Walkaway so much that he made a 3D-printable bookmark based on Will Stahle's amazing cover art!
The BACU Association -- the folks behind the incredible brutalist Socialist Modernism Tumblr -- have announced a limited run, 800-copy book collecting photos and details on 242 Socialist Modernist "objects" in Romania and the Republic of Moldova.
Back in 2007, Adam "Apelad" Koford created a marvellous, funny, weird alternate history for the then-viral phenomenon of LOLcats, running-gag memes of cats whose superimposed dialog had many odd grammatical quirks: the Laugh-Out-Loud Cats," a pair of comic-strip hobo cats straight out of the 1930s, who found obscure and clever ways to riff on our […]
Take a scroll through any app marketplace and you’ll see that the doors are wide open for any game these days – and any game developer. Like any creation, virtual or analog, it all starts with an idea. And if you’ve got one of those, the Complete Unity Game Developer Bundle can walk you the […]
At the rate the world is shrinking, you don’t need to be a globetrotter for a second language to be a useful skill. And if you’re looking to learn that second language (or a third, or fourth), uTalk Language Education is the learning program that makes progression not only easy but fun. If you can’t […]
Smokers on the go can breathe a little easier. With an innovative, easy-loading spiral design, the Twisty Glass Blunt offered a smoother, more consistent draw than conventional pipes. Now the Twisty Glass Mini delivers the benefits of its heavy-duty sister pipe in a more discreet package. For those that haven’t already made the Twisty Glass […]