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.”