The year is 2007. Fergie’s latest single is playing on the radio and Bush is president. I wasn’t expecting so many cultural references in Axiom’s End, but the first chapter along sent me spiraling back to my 17 self in junior year of high school. Thankfully, the cultural references stop there, lest this book turn into a derivative of Ready Player One.
Cora is just trying to make it in LA. She helps raise her two younger siblings with her mom. Their dad, Nils, complicates things. He’s a whistleblower currently hiding out in Germany running a website that leaks government intelligence and is wanted by the American government. Most of his leaks that gained traction were about alien contact on Earth. Though they have all but disavowed Nils, they know they have a target on their back. They keep a low profile accordingly. However, a meteor event sets in place a series of events in motion (including Cora being stalked by an alien) that breaks that low profile. Cora is eventually caught by the alien whom she names Ampersand and implanted with a device that allows her to communicate with him; she becomes his verbal and cultural translator, their work together leading to a deep and moving friendship.
There were parts in the middle of this book when Cora and Ampersand were connecting that brought tears to my eyes. Author Lindsay Ellis did such a phenomenal job making the friendship and connection between Cora and Ampersand feel deeply human even though one is an alien. Ellis smartly narrows the focus on the story without taking everything too wide or universal as sci-fi is wont to do. Of course there are stakes for all, but everything comes back to Cora and Ampersand.
I did listen to this book as an audiobook through Audible. The performance was not my favorite. The actress felt rushed and highly-energized throughout the entire book with little variation. Though the story is told from a 3rd person narrator, the voice actress often let the character’s emotional state bleed into even the impersonal description of setting.
BINGO – Nostalgia