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Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

cover of an absolutely remarkable thing by Hank Green

What I’m reading

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

by Hank Green

I received this book free from the publishers in exchange for an honest review

I beginning-loved this book. But it beginning-tricked me.

I went from addicted, ‘just one more page’ reading sessions to thinking ‘who is this person and do I really care.’ I wanted moar robots but got pages upon pages about internet fame instead.

A third of the way through I forgot the main characters name, even though she’s called April May. Maybe that’s why I forgot it? Was it my brain rebelling? Her name put me off in the same way I abandoned (500) Days of Summer halfway through, despite everyone saying I’d love it. Too artificial-cutesy-whimsical. I can enjoy cutesy, but it needs to earn its place.

I think I was supposed to forgive April May some of her failings because she was ‘Quirky,’ but really I needed her to be strong enough a character for me to forgive her quirkiness.

I don’t think it’s a bad book, and when I checked the blurb it did say it’s a book about

“how the social internet is changing fame and radicalisation; how our culture deals with fear and uncertainty; and how vilification and adoration can follow a life in the public eye.”

I enjoyed some of the riffs about marketing, and I liked that the characters were older than most YA casts (post-college, first job, still uncertain about money & love). But the pacing was patchy, the theme over-wrought, and getting to the end was a slog. I understand why other people like it, but I was relieved to move on to my next read and I won’t be back for the sequel.

Setting

The New York of action movies, all bustling sidewalks and apartments too tiny to sneeze in. A city so full of wonder and activity that when a giant robot appears on a street one night, no one cares. Apart from April May…

Favourite character

Miranda, the scientist.  I recognised my own science-y friends  in how enthusiastic & unstoppably-inspired she gets. My BFF’s eyes light up when she talks about genes & she loses track of time, the same way Miranda gets excited about the strange, giant figures in NY.

What can I learn as a writer?

There are lots of writing books and classes who warn novelists not to mislead the reader about what kind of book they are getting.

Holly Lisle talks about Promises in her writing classes, Les Edgerton’s Hooked is a book all about controlling what you’re signalling with your first chapter, and my writing lecturer swore by Nancy Kress’ Beginnings, Middles and Ends.

I’m not saying Hank Green personally wanted to trick me, but a couple of tweaks to the start of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing could have re-framed my expectations in time for me to like it more.

File with

Not Transformers 😉

 

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Top 3 genre picks in the Kindle sale

genre amazon kindle titles

A quickie to point out three gems in the Kindle Spring Sale (ends April 24th):

  1. Welcome to Night Vale: Everything to do with Night Vale is 10/10. So just buy it. I have nothing more to add.
  2. The Rook: I raced through this a few weeks ago, it is SO. MUCH. FUN. A woman wakes up surrounded by bodies, with a note in her pocket saying ‘The body you are wearing used to be mine.’ The ‘Who was she, and why are people trying to kill her?’ mystery makes this an addictive page-turner. It’s silly and gripping and I have no hesitation in recommending it to everyone.
  3. The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer: Disclaimer, this isn’t very good. Or rather, I didn’t rate it much back in ’92 & haven’t bothered to reread it since.But, the Twin Peaks reboot is a dream come true (assuming it’s not rubbish. The signs so far suggest Good Things), and any device to feed that excitement – like reading a slightly shoddy tie-in novel – is justifiable right now. It’s only 99p…
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Spring Science Fiction Recommendations

science-fiction films novels writingBefore Spring comes for real and I have to Go Outside and step away from the remote, I curled up for a long overdue sci-fi love-in. Just me, my kindle and Netflix, oh, and an assortment of aliens, robots and time-travellers.

Read on for book and film reccys (that everyone else watched ages ago).

First up, Lauren Beuke‘s short story collection Slipping. This was hit after hit of what I like best about her writing: sly, sharp digs at who we are, who we want to be, and the tricks we fall for, all with a gritty, near-future cyberpunk backdrop.

If you already like her writing, you’ll like this – if you haven’t read her yet, start here or see my review of Zoo City. I’ve seen this collection hailed as satire but it read more like fortune-telling to me – the future is written, and Instagram is going to kill us all.

Ex-Machina Alex garland robotThen, my brother added me to his Netflix account (because our mum made him – thanks Mum!), and I streamed Ex Machina immediately.

I’d wanted to see this since the Alex Garland interview on the Geeks Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

I love Alex Garland’s novels, but I hadn’t heard him speak before. Swoon! Who here isn’t a sucker for a deep-voiced guy talking knowledgeably about John Wyndham? Not me! So I needed to know if I’d enjoy his films as much as his books (read The Tesseract if you need a book you can’t put down til its finished).

Ex Machina was dreamily shot, cleverly written and has a satisfyingly un-saccharine ending. Most everyone I’ve mentioned it to has already seen it & gushed about how good it was, so I’d file it under Clever Arty Sci Fi Your Clever Arty Friends Will Like (But Saw Without You).  Also, Geoff Barrow from Portishead contributes to the soundtrack.

lucy-luc-besson Netflix’s hypnopowers then made me watch Lucy. It’s a fun Luc Besson caper that I refuse to link to the trailer for because it spoilers most of the film.

I’d give it 8.5/10* for satisfying my particular RhianFilm tastes: cheesy gangsters, sci-fi time babble, gunfights, car crashes & a solid Vincent Cassel-alike. [*.5 deducted for tenuous monkey link]

looper bruce willis time travelI finished up with Looper, which I’m glad I’ve finally seen but is my least favourite of the three.

It had its highlights: I find that Bruce Willis improves most things, and the future-noir world-building is detailed and believable. I’m not convinced by the time travel rules, though.

long way small angry planet becky chambersNow, this was all great but you might have spotted there are NO SPACE SHIPS in these films. And you can’t have a sci-fi jag with no spaceships. Which led me nicely onto a novel I’ve meant to read for ages – A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers.

I started reading this in bed one morning & was somehow halfway through by lunchtime, in that magic way reading=timetravel sometimes. The good thing about not starting this series for so long is that the sequel is already out, hurrah!

If you (like me) now want to write your own sci fi stories, I’ve done the legwork and found us a course on Cat Rambo’s site, taught with Ann Leckie. Yup, Hugo, Nebula & Arthur C Clarke award winning Ann Leckie. It’s called ‘Space Opera and Beyond‘, and it’s only $29, and I am 100% enrolling once I’ve finished editing this novel & am allowed to play on other projects.

If you also (like me) now need to read more sci-fi, here’s a good article that’s swelled my TBR pile: 9 Modern Women Science Fiction Writers You Need To Be Celebrating.

Send me any of your own sci-fi recommendations and I’ll be your bestest friend (I accept email, Twitter, Facebook or futuristic robot morse code)

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Uprooted wins Best Novel Award

Best Fantasy Novel

Naomi Novik’s Uprooted won Best Fantasy Novel Award at FantasyCon this weekend. Wahoo!
As you know, I had much fun being on the jury for this award, and had a book-filled summer working my way through the shortlist.

The shortlist was strong and varied, proving again that Fantasy as an umbrella term is a very broad, well, umbrella.

While I enjoyed reading them all, I confess Uprooted was my favourite. It twists away from the expected tropes of fairytale quite quickly, while staying close enough to the rules to make you admire how clever and refreshing it is. The magic (foresty, woodsy, ancient) was exactly the kind I like best, I dug the friendships between the female characters, and I harboured a modest crush on the main love interest.

Try reading your way through the shortlist, and, hey, why stop there? Check out the winners in *every* category. Award lists are a great way to find your next obsession.

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