Well, 4.5 rounded up.
I kind of don’t know what to say about this book! It was a lot! And, honestly, I liked the first book in this duology (3.5 stars worth), but it didn’t blow my socks off or anything. This one kind of did. I think there was a huge jump in quality here, but also a huge jump in scale. There was a focus on April in the first one that kept the story more intimate and smaller, not to mention that Carl was still a huge mystery even at the end of that book. Here, we get all of April’s friends as narrators, and we find out who and what Carl is, and *why* Carl is. Book one was about examining the ways that the internet and fame can change a person, book two takes that and levels it up. It’s about how the internet is changing our world, and how hard it is to be a person in such a complicated time. And it’s about power.
It’s also a fun adventure story with wacky puzzles to solve, industrial espionage, a talking monkey, a potato plant, a seemingly psychic book, a dangerous Reality Game called Fish, and Googling things with your mind.
The shift away from April as narrator was really smart. She had a very specific voice, and I think it works better when that voice is present in smaller doses. Her friends also had very interesting things to say, and reading from their perspectives was almost more interesting than reading from hers, even though she was at the center of events.
This doesn’t get a full five stars, though. As much as I liked it, I thought the ending was a little overexplained. I think it could have been dialed back a little, and had that much more impact. But, Hank is an explainer, so I get it.
With all that said, once I picked this book up, I couldn’t put it down. I read a little bit before bed on Friday, and when I woke up on Saturday I basically didn’t put it down until it was done. It felt eerily relevant to what we’re living through now (global events having world-altering affects on culture, the economy, and people’s state of minds; you could basically swap post-Carl society with COVID-19 pandemic society, complete with people staying in their houses all the time!) Even without that strange synchronicity, this series engages with internet culture and the way it changes the way we view our own humanity (both positively and negatively, and in all the grey areas in between) in a way I haven’t really seen other fictional books try to do. It was fascinating, and kind of freaky, but also reassuring.
If you only just liked the first book, or were iffy about it, I’d pick up this second one just to see. I think it will be worth it.
CBR Bingo: Shelfie
Here is my shelfie:
I picked this book for this BINGO category because it is *THERE*.