59 pages • 1 hour readHank Green
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An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is a 2018 novel by American video blogger Hank Green. Told in the first and second person, this speculative fiction follows a young woman after her video of what she believes to be a robot art installation goes viral. Her addiction to attention and the revelation that the Carl is an alien examines the consequences of fame and the nature of humanity when faced with the presence of aliens.
While walking home from work in Midtown Manhattan, April May, a 23-year-old art school graduate, passes 23rd street and discovers a 10-foot-tall robot on the sidewalk. Believing it to be a remarkable art installation, she calls her friend Andy, who films April mock-interviewing and critiquing the robot she names “Carl.” When the video goes viral overnight, April and Andy become YouTube famous. They discover that 64 Carls simultaneously appeared in cities across the world and that all cameras recording their locations blacked out, with the rock band Queen’s song “Don’t Stop Me Now” faintly playing in the background. April and her roommate/girlfriend Maya also discover recurring typos on the song’s Wikipedia page for the letters I, A, M, and U, which becomes known as the Freddie Mercury Sequence.
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April’s fame increases when she starts doing television interviews, becomes active on social media, and is recruited by the publicist Jennifer Putnam. April also comes into contact with Miranda Beckwith, a materials scientist graduate student from UC Berkeley who finds the Carls’ physical properties scientifically impossible. After discovering that the Freddie Mercury Sequence represents atomic elements, Miranda and April theorize that Carl is an alien and decide to give Carl the requested elements. When April shares her theory of Carl’s origin with Jennifer Putnam, they create an internet persona in which April represents humanity—the April May brand.
Andy films April as she presses each element to Carl. Upon doing so, April feels nauseous and dizzy before Carl’s hand detaches from its body and runs away, the hand of every other Carl vanishing. April and Miranda chase the hand but are unable to find it. Soon afterwards, April has the world’s first infectious Dream. In the Dream, April wakes up in an office lobby with a robot receptionist asking for a passcode. When it receives no response, she immediately wakes up. The second time she has the Dream, she solves a puzzle in a room behind the receptionist’s desk. After giving the passcode, she wakes up with a song and hexadecimal sequence stuck in her head. April discovers that the Dream has thousands of buildings of varying styles and eras, each containing a puzzle that gives hex code when solved. April discusses the dream with Miranda and Andy and finds that they had the exact same dream and that it has spread across the globe.
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People actively solving Dream sequences, Dreamers, collaborate on solving the puzzles that require obscure skills and knowledge from around the world. Dreamers hypothesize that the 4,096 pieces of hex will make a vector image—a message from the Carls. April continues building her fame by publishing a bestselling book, going on a book tour, and becoming a political pundit after falling into a series of debates with Peter Petrawicki, the author of a best-selling book that warns people to fear the Carls. She learns that her Dream has a puzzle no one else does involving a plane—the 767 sequence. On July 13, Petrawicki’s followers, the Defenders, carry out coordinated terrorist attacks near Carls around the globe, killing 800 people. Meanwhile, someone attempts to assassinate April in her apartment, but Carl’s hand swats away the bullet. While April films near Carl the next day, it turns a man who stabs April into grape jelly.
While April attempts to hide the attack footage, the president of the United States visits her in the hospital and requests she hand it over. April shares the 767 sequence and promises to share what may be the key to solving the mystery of the Carls. Though April is unable to solve it, the Defenders claim to have the solution. Ignoring her friends’ warnings, April rushes to the warehouse alone. There, she starts a livestream and realizes it is a trap and not her fantasy meeting with Carl. Trapped in the burning warehouse, April’s audience hears the song “Golden Years” playing in the background and realizes that the lyrics have changed, signaling everyone to press gold to the Carls. The roof of the warehouse then collapses, apparently killing April. April has a final dream of Carl, who admits he finds humanity to be beautiful and chose April from the start. The perspective shifts to Andy, who shares that every Carl vanished into space after people pressed gold to him. While mourning April’s presumed death, Andy receives an unexpected knock on his door, accompanied by a text from April saying, “Knock Knock.”