Hank Green’s appropriately named debut novel “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” is a marvel of our time. The book is at once a fun, thrilling sci-fi story about aliens making first contact. At the same time it gives a stark look at the realities of the modern world. It seems like an attempt to answer many questions, chief of which are 1) What could legitimately happen in the world if a sentient alien race made first contact with us on planet earth? and 2) What does it actually do to a person to be suddenly thrust into the spotlight of fame and fortune in the age of the internet? I can think of no person better equipped to answer these questions than Hank Green.
The story is well-paced, being told in an after-the-fact first-person account by the main character, April. HG’s character development is every bit on par with his brother’s (John Green). April and her friends Andy, Maya, Miranda, and Robin are an adult Goonies as they strive to unlock the mysteries of the Carls. Honestly, the characters and their quests remind me a lot of Ernest Cline’s book “Ready Player One.” There are a lot of similarities. I’m not sure if that was on purpose or coincidental. But if you enjoyed RPO, then you will really like AART.
The characters are likable and relatable. They are all of us. Well, all of us young adults/”Millennials” at least. The plot moves along at a pace somewhere between comfortable and suspenseful. It never really drags nor seems like too much too quickly.
What I appreciate the most is the honest handling of the real world divisions facing our society. In the story people essentially choose sides. April wrestles with an Us-vs.-Them attitude throughout most of the story, and it ultimately changes her into the person she never wanted to be. Most of all I appreciate the fact that HG points out the pros and cons of each opposing viewpoint. Neither side is completely vindicated and neither side is entirely wrong. We must pull together as a society and learn that lesson before something worse happens.
It’s all to eerie that a month after this book comes out there were bombs mailed in packages to current and former political leaders in this country (USA). An arrest has been made. No injuries were reported. But we still don’t know the full story or the motivations behind this attempted attack. The political climate of the book and of real life pushes people to the extremes. Any political extreme can be dangerous. It’s time we learn our lesson. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing can help teach us.