This summer, I picked up “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” by Hank Green (you probably know him from “Crash Course” or “SciShow” on YouTube), and I couldn’t put it down until I reached the end. If you’re into adventure, mystery, romance, humor and a healthy dose of social commentary, it is worth checking out.
April May, a personable woman in her mid-twenties, narrates. The plot follows her rise to international fame after she discovers the first of many identical robot sculptures appearing mysteriously in many major cities worldwide.
“Remarkable Thing“’s main characters are mostly in their mid-twenties, an age group that I haven’t seen represented in fiction nearly as often as middle-aged adults or teenagers. When this age group is represented, they are often portrayed as fully formed adults who know what they want out of life and how to get it. Green’s characters are much more realistic. They all make their share of bad decisions, and they aren’t quite sure what their place in the world is. It was refreshing to read about characters I could relate to a bit more than the polished teen heroes featured in the bulk of this genre.
This story has elements that could classify it as science fiction. Still, many details of the story are accurate to our current world. Set in modern-day United States, these characters seem like people you could bump into walking around downtown. This combination of a familiar setting and relatable characters makes this story seem closer and more urgent to a modern reader than some other alternate universe stories.
A novel about 20-somethings and a bunch of mysterious robot sculptures might seem unlikely to have any thoughtful message, but this book is full of surprises. As I read the book, I found myself considering fame—especially internet fame—and how the general public has been conditioned to interact with celebrities. “Remarkable Thing” looks deeply into how the internet can bring people together and allow them to form communities around a common passion. It also explores the internet’s ability to pull together individuals who share a hatred of something, forming organized groups with real power to harm.
This book takes place in the first person, giving the reader a lot of direct insight into how April is affected by things like what people tweet about her, how strangers treat her in real life and how her sudden fame has affected her relationships. Green is well versed in internet communities, social media and internet fame. He makes weekly videos with his brother on their shared YouTube channel. He created “Crash Course” and “SciShow,” both of which are under his media company Complexly. He even started a podcast with his wife in which they discuss what’s happening on Twitter from week to week. Green knows a lot about the internet, and it shows in this book.
The world has changed considerably since the only celebrities were movie stars and singers. Fame is becoming more common and more achievable to the average person, and that makes it incredibly tempting to start a YouTube channel or try to gain a following on TikTok or Twitter. Still, very few people look past the shiny exterior of modern fame and truly examine the consequences–something Green does beautifully in this novel. Even if you’re not looking to be dissuaded from becoming famous, the adventure and mystery alone are worth the read.