“What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. Don't complain.”
Hank Green’s first novel, AN ABSOLUTELY REMARKABLE THING, is itself remarkable. What seems at first a book pointed at a young internet obsessed generation turns out to be a close look at fame, where it leads and finding what is important.
Reading the Author’s Note section in the book, strategically placed as the last section of the book, will open your eyes to what the book is about. Is it better to read this last and find yourself saying “so that’s why he wrote it” or to read it first? All I can say is I read it last.
In this section Hank Green starts out with his first sentence telling us: “Hi… I’m famous on the internet.” In the second paragraph he says: “But let’s go back to that first sentence again….Like, what does “famous” even mean, and how is “famous on the internet” any different.” This book story seems to answer these questions
April lives in Manhattan starting out just making podcasts on YouTube, just like Hank. She lives with her roommate, and perhaps girlfriend, Maya. Andy is another friend, Miranda is a scientist, and her assistant Robin are all under twenty-five and the core of April’s team.
On her way home from work late one night finds that a tall statue has appeared, hovering just over the ground, by the building where she lives. The figure looks like a person, but nothing will move it. She senses that it must be an alien from some other world and her first thought is to phone her friend Andy to come and film her introducing the alien that she has named Carl. See immediately sees herself as a first contact for this alien.
Hank told us in the Author’s Note section about the first time a stranger approached him in a grocery store having recognized him from the internet and how that made him feel but also how it led eventually to writing this book. April will soon have the same experience when she has Andy post the interview of her talking about Carl. April becomes famous.
Other Carl’s appear in major cities all over the world, but April was the first contact and she becomes the advocate of the Carl’s being here for good reasons and she is number one on the internet. She offers ideas about unlocking the mystery and has the world helping her find the password to something in a dream.
A professional hater, Peter Petrawicki, sees April’s internet success and by becoming the Anti-April he gains many followers and they push that the Carl’s are a threat, rather than potential friends. Peter’s success is from taking the opposite point of view for all that April believes in.
Green is clearly interested in how social media moves the needle on our culture, and he uses April’s fame, choices, and moral quandaries to reflect on the social fabric. The book and April leave little doubt about a sequel
“The power that each of us has over complete strangers to make them feel terrible and and frightened and weak is amazing.”
“Even on this most terrible days, even when the worst of us are all we can think of, I am proud to be a human.”
“Basically, do your best to mock and deride their connection to and appreciation of you because, deep down, you dislike yourself enough that you cannot imagine anyone worthwhile actually wanting to be with you. I mean, if they like you, there must be something wrong with them, right?”
“Just because you can't imagine something doesn't mean you can't do it.”
See Literary Favorite Section for more on Lee Child and links to his other books reviewed here
The Affair is the sixteenth book in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, a prequel set six months before his first novel in the series, the Killing Floor.
Maj. Jack Reacher is sent to the small town of Carter's Crossing, Mississippi where a woman has been found murdered, her throat slit, with signs of rape. Maj. Duncan Munro is sent to the nearby base, Fort Kelham, and both are told to investigate. The base commander, Captain Reed Riley, is a powerful Senators son and has a reputation as a lady’s man. It seems clear that the army wants the military and Riley cleared and someone in the town found guilty.
Reacher arrives posing as a drifter, checks into the local inn and meets the local sheriff and previous Marine, Elizabeth Deveraux. She figures out who Reacher is, they work together and have sex at the Inn.
It turns out that there are other dead women, the most recent one, Chapman, was a white woman, and two prior ones were from the poorer African American part of the small town.
When Reacher finds that Riley did in fact have something to do with Chapman's death and possibly the other two murders he is ordered to cover up the evidence he's found thus far, which he ignores the request.
Others are killed in the cover up and an independent militia from Tennessee is assigned by someone inside the chain of command to destroy evidence of the murders.
The senator and his son believe that the crimes have been pinned on Elizabeth Deveraux and meet on the base and then in town to celebrate.
Just getting to this part of the plot is complicated and like all of Lee Child’s stories the plot is compelling. Reacher’s ability to see through to the truth is of course amazing. Another Child book you won’t want to put down.
See Lee Child Literary Favorite Section for more on this author and links to his other books reviewed here.
“He had fallen out of the ugly tree, and hit every branch.” ...
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” ...
“The third guy was different. ...
“The first day of the rest of my life.” ...
“No one expects a head butt. ...
“The best fights are the ones you don't have,”