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An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

A Novel
Written by: Hank Green
Narrated by: Kristen Sieh, Hank Green
Series: The Carls, Book 1
Length: 9 hrs and 25 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (260 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The instant number-one New York Times best seller

In his much-anticipated debut novel, Hank Green - co-creator of Crash Course, Vlogbrothers, and SciShow - spins a sweeping, cinematic tale about a young woman who becomes an overnight celebrity before realizing she's part of something bigger, and stranger, than anyone could have possibly imagined.

The Carls just appeared. Coming home from work at three a.m., 23-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship - like a 10-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor - April and her friend Andy make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world - everywhere from Beijing to Buenos Aires - and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.

Now April has to deal with the pressure on her relationships, her identity, and her safety that this new position brings, all while being on the front lines of the quest to find out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

Compulsively entertaining and powerfully relevant, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing grapples with big themes, including how the social Internet is changing fame, rhetoric, and radicalization; how our culture deals with fear and uncertainty; and how vilification and adoration spring from the same dehumanization that follows a life in the public eye.  

The beginning of an exciting fiction career, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is a bold and insightful novel of now.

©2018 Hank Green (P)2018 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is a thrilling journey that takes a hard look at the power of fame and our willingness to separate a person from the brand. Green manages to blend humor, mystery, and science-fiction in his fast-paced debut novel.” (Associated Press)

“A deceptively romp-y novel about mysterious samurai alien robot statues appearing all at once, everywhere that has hidden and absolutely remarkable depths.... 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.” (Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing)

“[An Absolutely Remarkable Thing] is perhaps as honest a look as we will ever get into the phenomenon of cyberfame, and Green balances this careful introspection with a plotline that is both fun and mysterious, puzzling, and compelling.... Green quickly proves himself adept not only at playing into our 2018 anxiety and love/hate relationship with social media, but also at driving suspense, world-building, and a true love for science-fiction.” (Bookreporter)

“Led by an earnestly flawed, bisexual heroine with direction and commitment issues, coupled with an abundant generosity of spirit, this read is timely and sorely needed. Highly recommended.” (Library Journal, starred review) 

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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2+2 in fact = 4

The narration, by the primary narrator, is excellent. The setting of the dilemma is intriguing. 80's Music references feels...a little too Ready Player One. Descriptive writing was pleasant (The beginning when April May discovers Carl and describes him).

HOWEVER. The whole story was really hard to digest when the protagonist describes how she's going down a path of being a terrible person, then the reader is subjected to listen to her be a terrible person. Either show me you're a terrible person, or tell me you're a terrible person (I prefer the former but will accept the latter if it helps move other facets of the story along)- But don't do both! This story hits you over the head and then kicks you while you're down with the dangers of being a public figure in our modern world. I was hoping for more subtle social commentary- but I think my nose is still bleeding from the ham-fisted attempts of shoving all of the problems of the world down my face.
All in all, there are great bones in this story. The ending was...lacklustre and disappointing, I hope it can be resuscitated in a sequel.

5 people found this helpful

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An Absolutely Remarkable Book

Incredibly poignant and relevant to the current social and political climate in both the western and global society. Hank's book takes a hard look at how we as a species participate in discourse and how the discourse we chose to engage in effects us. April May's journey through notoriety and fame is believable and heartfelt. It shows the difficulties in coping and making good decisions in the face of being rapidly propelled into the public eye. A great read. I will not so patiently await a sequel.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A reflection of the times

Wonderfully, painfully, important and timely. Vastly different from John Green's works, in case you're wondering. I initially didn't prefer the narrator but very quickly warmed up to Kristen; she was the perfect voice of April May, and while the overall performance maybe wasn't astonishing, it was definitely appropriate, satisfactory, and emotional. The story is utopian as much as dystopian—much like the current era. The characters are gut-wrenchingly honest reflections of the human condition: relatable, likeable, UN-likable, complex, and HUMAN, with both depth and development. The book is an unflinching analysis of the internet era and its implications, both good and bad. For fans of... digital life, coming of age, aliens, art, humanity, existentialism, and life in general. If you liked Ready Player One, you should also enjoy this. A beautiful, remarkable debut from Hank; every second was worth my attention.

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A story in a story

You think it is about one thing but really it is about another.

As someone who enjoys content made my Hank Green, I really appreciated this peak into his brain.

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Couldn't put it down!

I loved this book. I literally sprinted through it. It captured my interest and curiosity and I couldn't stop listening until it was done.

I can't believe I almost didn't know about it at all. I learned about it from Philip Defranco's podcast with Hank Green and was curious. Really impressed by the storytelling, and the unexpected plot twists. Looking forward to part 2.

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awesome storyline with great voice actor!

I'm used to listening to books written by authors like Stephen King so choosing to read a Hank Green novel was out of my regular comfort zone. I am so glad I took the chance! I think I finished this book in about 2 days haha cannot wait for the next one to come out!

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Beautiful

A lovely story of fame and alien robots.

Perhaps my favourite thing is how human the characters are. They are believable people as are their relationships.

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  • MJR
  • 2020-05-14

Great, engaging reading, engaging story.

Can't wait for the next book. I particularly appreciated the humanity of the protagonist. She made mistakes, sometimes owned up to them. The secondary characters were real and distinct.

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Wow!<br />

No expectations when starting this book as I had never heard of it; but what a great gamble it was. The story takes the reader on an extraordinary adventure with twists and turns. Very original with an unexpected ending. Enjoyed it from beginning to end!

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Another Covid 19 adventure

listened to on May 2 and 3 so deep into the Great Pause. Did Hank foretell about Covid 19. Is this humanity's Carl? I stop so you can listen and decide for yourself.

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  • Marissa
  • 2018-09-27

Grape jelly in the void

This novel is funny, gutwrenching, charming, and couched comfortably in a familiar world despite being properly absurD. In this story Hank Green peeks existential dread through optimistic curtains and tracks the most relatable of human emotions through subtle sci-Fi landscapes. The story is compelling. The characTers are dimensional, lovaBle, and deeply relatable. I


This novel is very good And I highly recommend it.

38 people found this helpful

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  • Ann
  • 2018-09-29

Incredible

This story was astounding! It was moving and vivid and, yes, #relatable. I started recommending it to friends and family before I’d even reached the halfway point.

19 people found this helpful

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  • Jacob
  • 2018-09-28

Flawless Narration to a Truly Remarkable Book

Hank Green not only captures the current social media world perfectly, but also does the same with people. He manages to covey, explain but also never justify the actions of a 'caught up in fame' main character somehow managing to make you hate, feel sympathetic for and understand her actions all at once. Hank doesn't create a character, he creates a human, with all the complex and dumb thoughts and emotions we all have displayed in a very modern tale.

It frankly has the potential to become a very dated book, with social media platforms like Twitter , YouTube and Reddit being use candidly and without explanation, assuming that everyone reading can interpret without needing explanation. Instead of hinder, that only helps to elevate the story as even non-twitter users know and understand it's layout and basic rules.

But the story also needs a consistent story to follow and it is created with a mystery that is both as compelling as it is awesome. A world wide mystery that all who read it would feel pretty great being able to participate in. By mimicking the ideas of many projects that have existed it never feels off, in fact doing the opposite and feeling completely natural in a highly connected social media landscape.

But finally a shout needs to go out to Kristen Sieh, who narrates this book, the character of April May and all supporting characters with such emotion that it is hard not to think of them as real. Often a small line of dialogue will be said so well that the following description of "he sounded scared" is completely unnecessary. But the absolute best part is the amount of time between panicked words. On a page it will be separated by a few dots, but in this it is full seconds between crying, hushed words. It, combined with the completely open dialogue into April May's thoughts that Hank writes, makes Kristen Sieh's performance feel like you are simply listening to April May.

Hank Green has written a book so modern, real and raw, that if the starting events where to physically happen to our world, no one would be at all surprised if this is exactly how it played out.

21 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amy Alison Robinson
  • 2019-01-10

Wow!

This book was amazing and was quite a surprise with the plot twists. I had never heard of this title, but knew it was John Green's brother who wrote it. I've read so many John Green novels, so I took a chance. Wow! It was a real treat! I won't discuss any plotlines because it is better going in "blind."

5 people found this helpful

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  • J. Marin
  • 2019-12-18

Would this book be published if YOU wrote it?

I really wanted to like this book, and so much of this was curiosity as to what writing looks like from someone who may have climbed on the shoulders of his brother/his own fame. What does writing look like when your debut has that going for you?

In the end, I am not convinced this would have been published if it were written by someone without Hank Green's background.

It's not bad. It is just not something I would expect to be a beat seller with multiple translations and an audiobook. It's something I would expect would land you three stars and a self-published sequel.

The characters are like the characters from "Crash." They almost have their roles more than they are people. And the background for the main character is almost a satire of a modest waif. That's not impossible to work with, but it seems like Green was more interested in having a plucky personality than a person as a main character. Her being Bisexual only transiently has an impact on the story. Her being "hot" by her own description is hardly remarked upon (unreliable narrator? unclear). She and her friends are JUST conveniently knowledgeable to move the plot forward that I would not be surprised to read that they were mind controlled in the sequel.

The best thing about this book is the wit. Green takes from John Scalzi and really makes you feel comfortable listening to April May spell things out. I give the performance a 5/5, but Green's writing shone with April's narrative. I would not be surprised to hear Green wanted to write a book about April being the focus of first contact, but then not focusing on anyone or anything else. His passion was April as a narrator, I feel, and the story came second.

Overall, I would say I enjoyed the listen. The story has just enough mystery as to hold you, and the pluck is just heartwarming. However, the plotholes (especially the first chapters), the stereotypical/robotic characters, and the lazy dialogue all make me wonder what better writers have had their books rejected for smaller flaws and better stories?

4 people found this helpful

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  • Spekle
  • 2019-01-11

Absolutely Remarkable

Please take a moment to stop and listen to this book. Pause for a while and enjoy the art for the sake of enjoying art.
An amazing ride with a heavy message. I adore the fact that to me, it is not preachy but delivers a strong theme that makes you think.
Worth. A. Read.
Or listen.
Why not both?
....
Why not Zoidberg?

3 people found this helpful

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  • Andrew Morrison
  • 2018-10-03

My first audio book

This was my first audio book, and this was an absolutely phenomenal experience. I listened during my hour long commute.

11 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-03-20

Disappointed

April is very obviously a female character written by a man. She lacks depth, nothing really moves her emotionally, and she’s just a jerk. I wanted to like her and hoped she’d develop, but alas, she sucks. Hank Green missed the mark in developing a bisexual heroine. I made it more than halfway through but the plot is just too boring. I can’t believe this book keeps getting 5 stars. I gave the performance 4 stars because the narrator does a great job at embodying April.

13 people found this helpful

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  • JaylinRenee
  • 2018-10-22

Just okay.

I was pretty disappointed. I love Hank Green and listen to his podcasts and watch his videos. The downside to this book is that it reads how he talks: frantic and a bit scattered. Also the narration of the book distracts from the story as well. Her attempt at male voices takes me out of the story, and makes the main character April come off as unapproachable and unlikeable. It had potential but I think more revision would have made it better.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Justin
  • 2018-10-02

Not that remarkable

I will be the one to say it, that this book was not all I thought it was going to be. It was very bland and I guess my expectations were a little high. The ending was probably the worst part.

8 people found this helpful