A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor: An exciting story that asks a lot of questions

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsA Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsA Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green

Hank Green’s A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor (2020) is the sequel to his 2018 debut, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing which you’ll need to read first. There will be spoilers for An Absolutely Remarkable Thing in this review.

It’s been a few months since the life-shattering events that occurred at the end of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. The Carls are all gone and it appears that April died in a fire that was set by some extremists influenced by anti-April vitriol on social media. Yet, her body has never been found. Her friends, who’ve been split up due to the absence of April’s coalescing force, are suffering and somewhat directionless without April and the Carls. Some of them hold hope that April still lives. They take turns narrating A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor.

There are several mysteries for April’s friends to solve. First, obviously, is what happened to April’s body and is it possible that she still lives? What’s up with the secret and prophetic instructional manuals that some of them are receiving? Why are there internet outages in New Jersey and what does that have to do with university and hospital lab break-ins and the excess of dolphins in the Delaware River? Who is creating The Thread, a new YouTube channel that is smart, incisive, influential, and suspiciously well-informed? What is the big secret project that Peter Petrawicki, the villain of the first book, is hiring the world’s top computer scientists, neuroscientists, and Artificial Intelligence people to work on on an isolated island?

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsApril’s friends, with the help of a couple of new friends, will work individually and, eventually, together to attempt to figure out what’s going on. They will each use their own particular skills, whether that’s gumshoeing, spying, bankrolling, or hacking. In the process we will learn a lot more about the Carls — who they are, where they came from, and what they’re doing on Earth. We also learn that there are other forces at work on Earth and they are not so benevolent.

Some of the plot is a little too far-fetched, but it’s all fun and exciting. I especially enjoyed Miranda’s storyline. She’s the PhD student doing AI work, and her part of the investigation is especially dangerous and thrilling.

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor contains themes that are similar to those of the previous book. Green wants us to think about the way we use social media, what it does to us personally, and what it does to our economy, political system, and culture in general. In addition, Green speculates about using virtual reality to share memories and experiences and asks what that will do to our brains and how we will deal with inequities in access and control. More generally, Green warns that the pace of our rapidly advancing technologies may outstrip our ability to regulate them and even to consider their ethical consequences.

There’s a sweet ending to A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor. This appears to be the conclusion of the story, but there’s room for additional adventures if Green decides to continue the CARLS series. I hope he will.

I listened to the audiobook version (Penguin Audio) which is really excellent. It’s got several narrators, including Green himself. At the end of the audiobook, Hank Green interviews Cory Doctorow for about 45 minutes. They talk about the themes in A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor and they don’t agree on everything.

By the way, just in case you are counting, this is the third time in nine months that I’ve been rickrolled while reading a science fiction novel. It’s starting to feel like a conspiracy. Am I the only person this is happening to??

Published in July 2020. Who has the right to change the world forever? How will we live online? How do we find comfort in an increasingly isolated world? The Carls disappeared the same way they appeared, in an instant. While the robots were on Earth, they caused confusion and destruction with only their presence. 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. Months later, April’s friends are trying to find their footing in a post-Carl world. Andy has picked up April’s mantle of fame, speaking at conferences and online; Maya, ravaged by grief, begins to follow a string of mysteries that she is convinced will lead her to April; and Miranda is contemplating defying her friends’ advice and pursuing a new scientific operation…one that might have repercussions beyond anyone’s comprehension. Just as it is starting to seem like the gang may never learn the real story behind the events that changed their lives forever, a series of clues arrive—mysterious books that seem to predict the future and control the actions of their readers—all of which seems to suggest that April could be very much alive. In the midst of the search for the truth and the search for April is a growing force, something that wants to capture our consciousness and even control our reality. A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor is the bold and brilliant follow-up to An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. It is a fast-paced adventure that is also a biting social commentary, asking hard, urgent questions about the way we live, our freedoms, our future, and how we handle the unknown.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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