The Carls disappeared the same way they appeared, in an instant. While they were on Earth, they caused confusion and destruction without ever lifting a finger. Well, that’s not exactly true. Part of their maelstrom was the sudden viral fame and untimely death of April May: a young woman who stumbled into Carl’s path, giving them their name, becoming their advocate, and putting herself in the middle of an avalanche of conspiracy theories.
A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor is the sequel to An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, which is the story of an “alien” visitation by a giant samurai robot referred to as Carl (the Carls when plural). It’s difficult to discuss the second book without inadvertently giving away the ending of the first, so be forewarned that this review contains a spoiler for the first book. I do not, however, include spoilers for the second book.
*SPOILER HERE* April May has died and the Carls have vanished. April’s friends Miranda, Andy, and Maya are all still struggling with the loss of April. Maya spends most of her time on the Som, which leads her to investigate a series of mysterious anomalies. Miranda decides to try for a potentially dangerous job on enemy territory, and Andy grapples with his continued celebrity status in April’s wake. Their separate adventures and day-to-day decisions lead the trio of friends to discover what actually happened to April and the Carls, as well as what’s about to happen next.
A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor is, inevitably, a bit less riveting than the first book only because sequels always are. There’s really just no way to continue that high that comes with first-book mysteries, shenanigans, and character growth. However, this book does something more in that Hank (I’m going to refer to him as Hank so that he’s his own person not to be confused with John) uses the opportunities in this book to give some wonderful and important insights on grief and how to deal in a post-Carl world. Many other reviewers on Goodreads have compared the post-Carl landscape with the changes COVID has caused in the real world, and if anything, people should read this book as a way to heal and cope with the changing landscape in our own world.
I think that tragedy either brings people together or drives them apart. You can find either comfort or a constant reminder.A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor, page 125
Hank Green is a science guy. If you watch his vlogs with his brother John or follow him on TikTok, you know how smart and knowledgeable he is, and you also know how great he is at taking complex scientific topics and notions and explaining them in everyday language and terms. One of my favorite things about his books is that he adds that in. Miranda works at a lab for her PhD, and then at another facility, so her chapters contain a lot of science-y stuff. Carl’s chapters do too, but my point is that I love being able to read science fiction written by a qualified individual rather than someone who is primarily a writer who consults scientists, or worse, just googles information, to write about the science aspects of their sci-fi novels. Hank’s work is a gem in that he’s a professional with a strong background in science who is now writing fiction. I really, really hope he inspires more science-minded individuals to get into general fiction writing, because the style and the topics and every aspect of his writing is just so refreshing to read about. His writing isn’t indulgent, it isn’t frivolous, it’s exact and careful and meticulously specific, and I just adore it.
Is this book a little less exciting than the first? Yes, but it provides much needed closure, and it does it in such a way that I felt complete and contented by the time I finished. If I were the type of person who rereads books, this book would be in my top five comfort rereads. Plus, the ideas in this duology are just so original and refreshing.
Bottom line, I love both book one and two, and I love that Hank Green is writing novels. I hope he continues to write more.
PUBLICATION DEETS: Dutton Books, July 7, 2020, 450 pages
CATEGORIES: sci-fi, contemporary fiction, speculative fiction