An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

Author Hank Green
Published 2018
Rating 5/10
ISBN 9780525641780
Status Finished on 2020-09-11

I think there’s a charitable and an uncharitable way to evaluate this book.

The uncharitable way: the plot is hilariously unrealistic; every twist is telegraphed from a mile away; the protagonist is a bizarre and gross amalgam of Mary Sue and self-insert; the writing is facile and (and this is being charitable!) won’t age more than three years; any antagonists are one-dimensional at best. The book demands nothing of your mind and little of your heart.

The charitable way: it’s kind of fun! The audiobook narration is excellent, the rabbit-holing into internet fame rings true, and the story feels silly in the same way an endearing anime does — yeah, it’s a silly trip, but you generally like the people involved so you go with it.

I generally try to go with the Roger Ebert mechanism of criticism, which is asking “how well does the work accomplish its goals?” The book tries to do two things:

  1. It tries to be a fun, light-hearted science fiction romp, and I think it does that well.
  2. It tries to engage seriously with the concepts of internet fame, polarization, and (imagine my finger quotes here) The Discourse, and it fails utterly. Lampshading the protagonist’s descent into vitriol is not a meaningful contribution; ignoring the role of technology and industry feels willfully ignorant.

But this is the first of a series, and the real question is: do I want to read the next book? And the answer is yes: it was light (this one took me around half a week) and relatively fun and I could turn my brain off. But I certainly wouldn’t pay for it.

Highlights

Most power just looks like an easier-than-average life.