After I read An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green last year, I was disappointed to find out it wasn’t a standalone book. Even though the first book was not a favorite of mine, I decided to give A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor a shot anyways, mostly to see if the sci-fi world set up in the first book would deliver an interesting ending.
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.
Months later, the world is as confused as ever. Andy has picked up April’s mantle of fame, speaking at conferences and online about the world post-Carl; Maya, ravaged by grief, begins to follow a string of mysteries that she is convinced will lead her to April; and Miranda infiltrates a new scientific operation . . . one that might have repercussions beyond anyone’s comprehension.
As they each get further down their own paths, a series of clues arrive—mysterious books that seem to predict the future and control the actions of their readers; unexplained internet outages; and more—which seem to suggest April may be very much alive. In the midst of the gang’s possible reunion is a growing force, something that wants to capture our consciousness and even control our reality.
If you find the Vlogbrothers videos tiring to watch on YouTube, this book will have a similar effect. The voice of the writing is exactly that of Hank Green’s video persona: five steps past quirky and way too over the top for my taste. The biggest example of the overuse of quirk was when the author tried to create an eccentric and unexpected aura around the aliens – but it just felt really forced and inauthentic. A lot of time was wasted on building up the eccentricity and peculiar nature of the aliens, instead of actually telling a compelling story about them. The fact that an alien plays a mid-2000s top 40 song during a critical moment does not replace the need for exposition and world building, nor does it make the aliens interesting.
I was ready to pull my hair out after the one millionth time this book tried to get philosophical about life and morals. It’s obvious that Green was trying to land a quote to rival those of his brother (John Green Quotes). Green wrote these lengthy passages and monologues about the morality of being human so often that the plot ended up suffering for it – I found myself cranking up the speed of my audiobook any time a monolog started. Listen, I love a good inspirational monolog as much as the next person, but when a book starts grand standing about philosophy and fails to land a single solid point, I draw the line. Green leaned far too heavily on these moments of preaching about how terrible the world is – he had reduced the monologues it would have been a more palatable book.
The issue with this series is that it can’t seem to pick a direction it wants to go. The first and the second book are completely different – you could honestly pick this one up without reading the first and not actually miss a ton. Where the first book spun its wheels, this sequel had enough plot lines for several books. A terrorist organization hijacking workers brains, a pair of dueling alien lifeforms, the resurrection of a dead woman, a new VR experience that was taking over the world, and more. The worst part was the fact that all of the plotlines were half-baked at best. The author should have really picked out one or two of the many stories being told and dropped the rest, rather than trying to cram them all into a single book.
Once again, April was an asshole to her friends – that has not changed from the first book. In fact, one thing I noted in A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor was despite the fact that there was a large of characters, none of them really had any character development or changed from the first book. Characters were the same at the start of the book as they were at the end – none of them really learned any lessons or made new connections along the way.
Unfortunately, Hank Greens books seem to really not agree with me. In my eyes, this book is a very solid example of why YouTubers should not be given publishing deals based on their popularity. Also, this book reeks of nepotism – surely Hank Green was given a large leg up based on the popularity of his brother, John Green. I hope others enjoy this book more than I did. If you’re looking for an interesting book about VR – be sure to read Ready Player One and its upcoming sequel Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline. 1/5