Hank Green’s science-fiction duology provides balance of social critique and scientific exploration


Hank Green’s 2018 and 2020 releases dive into the world of extraterrestrials, internet fame and young adult relationships. (Photo courtesy of Fantasy Literature)

By Madeline Marriott, Assistant Arts and Culture Editor

Hank Green’s recent series of two books, “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” and “A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor,” serves as a perfect exploration of the science-fiction genre for inexperienced or apprehensive readers.

“An Absolutely Remarkable Thing,” released in 2018, tells the story of 23-year-old April May, who stumbles across an enormous robot statue—which she affectionately names Carl—in the middle of the night. When similar statues appear across the world, April’s video of the strange occurrence goes viral. April and her friends are suddenly thrust into the global spotlight as they become more entangled in the unexplainable occurrences surrounding the Carls.

“A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor,” Green’s 2020 follow-up, continues the story of April and her friends as the fallout of the statues’ appearance takes them across the globe.

April is an interesting and frustrating protagonist. She has personality flaws and makes decisions accordingly. She loves her friends and hurts them at the same time. In creating April, Green does what many authors struggle to do: create a female protagonist flawed enough to be believable and endearing enough to make up for it.

The rest of the characters are equally complex. They struggle with the balance between wanting to accomplish things for themselves and working efficiently as a team while walking the fine line between making choices that are best for their relationships or the ones that potentially save the human race.

As a reader who rarely has patience for the painstaking world-building that many science-fiction and fantasy works require, I found that this duology balanced dense scientific terminology with rich characterization and a fast-moving plot. The series is set in our world exactly as we know it today, with the only difference being the arrival of Carl.

The only place where this balance begins to falter is at the end of the second book when the full nature of the forces behind the arrival begins to unfold. This evolves into a rather intricate scientific and philosophical explanation, but by that point, I was far too invested in the plot and characters to mind.

Both books are simultaneously an exploration of scientific concepts and a critique of social media and the political polarization it can facilitate. Immediately after the video goes viral, society splits into two opposite camps: those who believe the Carls are good, and those who believe they are evil. The differences between the groups are magnified. Protagonist and antagonist alike fall victim to the tendency to dehumanize the other side. The books also deal with the pitfalls of overnight internet fame and devotes a sizable portion of the book to examine how it affects the characters’ friendships, relationships, and mental health.

If character-driven novels are your choice, start out with “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” and follow up with “A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor” for an enjoyable dive into the world of science-fiction.