This was actually a really strange reading experience for me, because I usually don’t read (fiction) books where I’ve spent so many hours listening to the author speak on non-fictional topics. It’s allllmost like what I imagine reading a book that a friend wrote would be. I’ve never actually had that experience, though (yet), so what do I know. Anyway, almost ten years of Vlogbrothers videos, and three years of weekly podcast episodes lends a little familiarity, is all I’m saying.
And I liked the book! I liked it a lot, actually. The story was solid and interesting, and sort of nifty and scary at the same time, but also sort of hopeful? Don’t want to get too spoilery, but basically these robot statues appear in cities all over the world, and our protagonist April goes viral when she shoots a video with a friend and uploads it to YouTube. It changes her life. Suddenly, she’s not just a graphic designer, she’s an “influencer”, and the voice of the pro-Carl movement (she calls the robot statue Carl in the video, and it sticks). Nobody knows what the Carls are or why they’re here or basically anything. But it’s April that’s the real focus here, and how the experience of fame changes her life.
The book is actually a meditation on fame and on how the internet is changing the way we live and think, and I found it really insightful and thought provoking. My only real issue with it was the writing itself, the craft of it. It was in places very obviously a first novel. There were times where you could feel the heavy hand of the author not used to creating fiction, and going a little too hard on it. It also doesn’t help that he chose first person POV, and the book is written in a very conversational style. In my opinion that’s a really hard POV to write in and maintain control over. I think he did pretty well, though, for a first try! April is an interesting protagonist because she is sympathetic and likable, but she is also very flawed and makes lots of questionable choices.
He’s working on a sequel now, and I will definitely be checking it out.
Worth noting, this is being marketed as fiction, and I can see that. Maybe 70% of it is regular old fiction. But the rest of it is straight up sci-fi. A little puzzling why it’s not being marketed that way.
[3.5 stars, rounded up]
CBR Bingo: So Shiny! (Review a newly published book.)