Axiom's End
August 8, 2020 2:31 PM - by Ellis, Lindsay - Subscribe

First contact happens in the year 2007. Cora Sabino, a college dropout and daughter of a famous whistleblower, unwillingly ends up in the center of it all, acting as an interpreter for the aliens.
posted by dinty_moore (6 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I thought it was good, if not great. Cora didn't bother me as much as a lead as it seems like she's bothered others, though I did find 'aimless female college dropout' a kind of particularily mid-aughts type of protagonist. (Though that might just be Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls coming to mind).

I did find the book a little repetitive, and eventually just wanted Cora to be able to eat a sandwich with the amount of time she was running on no sleep and no food. But I did like Ampersand, and I would read more when it comes out.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:36 PM on August 8, 2020

Thanks for posting this, I really liked the book more than I was expecting. I hadn't heard people were bothered with Cora, but she definitely worked for me. One of the better things I've read lately, the only thing that didn't work great was the father stuff tbh, but I can see why it was there.
posted by Carillon at 5:08 PM on August 8, 2020

I really liked this book! I zipped through it in about 24 hours. I thought it did drag a teensy bit in the middle and honestly, the alien politics were a bit dense for me but I'll read it again.

I absolutely loved Cora. I found really relatable. I thought the prickly relationship with her mother at the beginning was really well-drawn. I thought Ellis also captured that weird, low grade paranoia of the Bush years. Like, that dawning dread that there horrible secret shit going on all around us and we only knew like, 5% of it.

I also liked Ampersand quite a bit and was a little surprised at the turn their relationship took. I'd also like to see some fan art or something of him because I can't quite make a mental picture of what he looks like. (This is a failing of my imagination, not the writing.)

Also, I super love Lindsey Ellis. She is my favorite Youtuber and I'm so glad the books is good and doing well.
posted by Aquifer at 10:58 PM on August 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed this book but didn't love it. By design it's a slightly odd structure, in that different parts of the book feel very different from one another. The book sort of switches from horror to interpersonal drama, to ethical discussion on interspecies relation, to action thriller. Some of those sections are really good, and I think as soon as Ampersand and Cora start talking it gets a lot better, but I felt like the book shifted gears a little clunkily.

There's also a thing the book does where it seems to be following Cora but suddenly tells us what another character think or feels about a situation, which I always find jarring.

I found the choice to make Cora's father always an absence a really interesting one; it's clear that his choices have a massive impact on his family, but he is never called to task, and nothing is resolved. It felt quite real, but I don't know how satisfying I found that. The choice to do means this is a book pretty much driven by women, with Cora and Luciana having the most to do and say. We do get Sol later but the book quite cleverly positions him as powerless. That is he does have power over Cora, but it basically pales away against the alien influence.

I do think Ellis' capturing of an alien personality was really great, and the difficulty of two species with different priorities and a power imbalance negotiating was captured really well. I think that was probably my favourite part of the novel.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:43 PM on August 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think the voice is really strong, and Cora is a great character. The book starts out very witty and wise. But as the plot moves forward, it becomes more and more convoluted. The novelty of the alien wears off quickly (for Cora and the reader), and by the end it was hard to care about anyone or anything. I finished, but the last few chapters were a slog.
posted by zardoz at 2:03 PM on May 6, 2021

I just read this finally after having owned it for a good long while -- I really liked it! in part I listened to the audiobook version, which was nice and has a fun featured-role for PhilosophyTube's Abby Thorn (who I understand narrates more and/or all of the second book in the series).

a few random spoilery bits that I really appreciated:
  • nils is used very smartly both in terms of thematic resonance and story structure. what an asshole, but also it's great that a book like this that has to for the sake of its premise do some amount of "conspiracy theories are true!!!" nonetheless drops dudes like this completely in the trashbin
  • the book does a great job of dropping in hints that the "well" of knowledge one could have about Ampersand's culture is much, much deeper than you ever get, e.g. his deliberately unexplained inability to lock onto Cefo's location as easily as Obelus
  • Obelus's decision to speak in a way Cora understands feels both like a bit of a cheat and also, in combination with Ampersand's refusal to engage, a delightful way to give Obelus a very Megatron-y supervillain monologue
I also liked Ampersand quite a bit and was a little surprised at the turn their relationship took. I'd also like to see some fan art or something of him because I can't quite make a mental picture of what he looks like. (This is a failing of my imagination, not the writing.)

at some point while reading, probably just because of overfamiliarity with Ellis's YouTube ouevre, I imagined that Ampersand looked like one of the Independence Day alien carapaces (i.e. the outer shell, not the little guys inside). this visual made less and less sense as the book went on but stuck regardless

and regardless I think the difficulty getting a good mental image of him is good -- the book's walking this really interesting tightrope of building Ampersand and Cora's relationship while repeatedly, firmly insisting that they are alien to each other, and so having us locked in Cora's perspective and still seeing him somewhat as a weird foreign lizard alien thing even at the very end really drives that home. a more shape of water-esque use of the kind of "coherent unintelligibility" that prose can conjure (southern reach trilogy comes to mind as doing the same thing for very different ends).

looking forward to starting book 2 sometime soon!
posted by Kybard at 9:30 AM on January 24, 2022

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