The Lightest Object in the Universe

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 23 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

While character motivations are sometimes hard to relate to, I enjoyed this book.  Would like to see spin-off books for some of the characters, I like the characters and world building.
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The Lightest Object in the Universe is a post-apocalyptic story in which a flu causes the collapse of the world as we know it. On one side of the country, Beatrix and her neighbors in California are relearning how to live off of the land and maintain a sense of community. In New York, Carson gives up on life in the city and sets off across country hoping to reunite with Beatrix on the other coast. Both encounter different struggles in the new world, including a radio preacher promising paradise for everyone who joins him.

It is quite slow for a post-apocalyptic novel, and I wanted to know more about what happened to bring about the collapse. The whole explanation piece is pretty bare bones. The rebuilding process, however, was interesting to read and think about. I kept feeling the need to brush up on my survival skills and learn sustainable gardening. Carson’s cross-country journey seemed a little unbelievable in terms of what he would have encountered. The preacher's storyline was intriguing, but felt out of place to me. My favorite parts to read were about Beatrix’s community and how they were pulling together and giving each other hope.

I think the nature of the story gave it the potential for a deeper exploration of loss, grief and hope which never materialized. While some aspects of this book were thought-provoking and enjoyable, overall it left me feeling underwhelmed and disconnected from the characters.

Thanks so much to NetGalley for offering me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Kimi Eisele's The Lightest Object in the Universe follows Carson's journey across the US to find Beatrix, his love, after the entire society has ceased to exist (and by that, I mean literally everything stopped: no government, no technology, nothing!) due to a flu outbreak. The story itself is different than other apocalyptic settings because it has a positive spin on society: rebuilding, trusting, beginning anew - all fragile things that can be disrupted by outside threats. But Eisele' focuses on the goodness of humanity, on love, on working together to survive. It was a lovely story, with elegant writing and beautiful characters; however, my one complaint is that it felt slow at times. Thank you NetGalley and Algonquin Books for this eARC. Opinions are completely my own.
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This was a great story, good writing. It's about after the world collapses, what do you do next? How do you rebuild? And how do you reconnect to your loved ones when there aren't planes anymore? Who takes control?

This books gives some great answers to those questions. It's not a new story, first thought that comes to mind is The Postman, but there are others. For that reason it's not a five star, just not unique enough. But it's definitely worth your time to read, that is if you like a little disaster in your fiction.
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I love post apocalyptic books. I have read my fair share and unfortunately some do not stand out and feel like every other one. It was sadly the case for me with this one.

In the beginning I was getting vibes of "Station Eleven" and even "The Stand" but by the middle point I was bored and struggled to finish the book. I was able to finish it by trying the audiobook but even then I struggled the concentrate.

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I admit to a weakness for dystopian novels--particularly ones that seem plausible today and are told on a small, personal scale (like The Age of Miracles or Into the Forest). This one imagines a collapse of the global economy and electrical grid. Carson is on the east coast and is desperate to make his way to Beatrix, on the west coast. Beatrix, meanwhile, joins with her neighborhood to share resources and rebuild their lives. Hovering over these efforts is the persistent voice of Jonathan Blue, promising food and safety--but is the promised salvation too good to be true?

Dystopias tend to be persistently dark. The Lightest Object in the Universe was not without darkness, but true to its title, it offers more light and hope than any other novel I've read about similar circumstances. Filled with characters who are ready to offer help, empathy, encouragement, friendship, and family, Eisele offers a refreshingly optimistic view of human nature and behavior in the worst of circumstances. She weaves into the story examples of impoverished communities in Latin America where people band together in similar ways to survive. Maybe such community is too much to hope for if the fall ever does come to the U.S., but I like to think that thousands of communities like Beatrix's would rise again.
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The Lightest Object in the Universe book review – no spoilers 
Thank you to Netgalley and Algonquin Books for the free advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review.
This one started out strong for me. It has a lot of great things going for it: mysterious dystopian setting, lovers separated by long distance trying to find their way to each other, a radical "savior" attempting to build a place of "freedom". But somewhere around halfway through my interest started to wane. I think I wasn't ready for the pacing and for where I was in my mindset I needed things to get going! All in all it's an insightful adventure that makes you think about what you would do if you were in this situation and the lengths you would go to for others.  It does feel completely plausible and that in its own is slightly terrifying if you think too hard on it. A solid 3 stars for The Lightest Object in the Universe, which in my ratings is a good novel ☺.
I'd recommend this for fans of Margaret Atwood and Kristin Hannah.
Here's the official synopsis: What if the end times allowed people to see and build the world anew? This is the landscape that Kimi Eisele creates in her surprising and original debut novel. Evoking the spirit of such monumental love stories as Cold Mountain and the creative vision of novels like Station Eleven, The Lightest Object in the Universe imagines what happens after the global economy collapses and the electrical grid goes down.In this new world, Carson, on the East Coast, is desperate to find Beatrix, a woman on the West Coast who holds his heart. Working his way along a cross-country railroad line, he encounters lost souls, clever opportunists, and those who believe they’ll be saved by an evangelical preacher in the middle of the country. While Carson travels west, Beatrix and her neighbors begin to construct the kind of cooperative community that suggests the end could be, in fact, a bright beginning. Without modern means of communication, will Beatrix and Carson find their way to each other, and what will be left of the old world if they do? The answers may lie with a fifteen-year-old girl who could ultimately decide the fate of the lovers.
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*Received via NetGalley for review*

Atypical for a post-apocalyptic story, The Lightest Object... is relatively slow and optimistic - some un-detailed event has occurred that has shattered the world, leaving all electronics useless. Carter, a school principal, leaves his home and travels across the United States to reunite with his love, Beatrix.

Much of the story is about community and how people can help each other survive - Carter has a friend who helps him get what he needs to leave, and is able to accomplish his journey by the kindness of strangers; Beatrix stays (initially unwillingly) where she is and discovers she can make a difference inspiring others to survive and help each other. It's a refreshing take on the genre, even though Beatrix can seem frustratingly naive and stubborn when it comes to her ideals.

There's also a... plot (not quite a side-plot, since it's fairly important, but doesn't become important until about the last third of the book) about a preacher who monopolizes the radio airwaves inviting people to his compound that's underdeveloped. Carter finds his way there and has an uncomfortable but benign encounter with the preacher, whereas Rosie and her grandmother (friends of Beatrix) undertake the journey to devastating results. 
This is also realistic, but should have more importance placed on it. Carter's interactions with Blue don't seem to be of any import - he might as well have not gone for all we learned and the effect it had on anything. Rosie and her grandmother were only there a few days, it seems, before everything came to the inevitable conclusion. 

The editing is sloppy (no demarkation between Carter's, Beatrix's, and Rosie's point of view, which is confusing; a passage where Beatrix's section is cut off mid-sentence to go to Rosie's) and the preacher plot is handled awkwardly; otherwise this would be 4 stars.
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The Lightest Object in the Universe by Kimi Eisele will satisfy those who want a hopeful dystopian novel.

I liked some of the ideas of a community working together to salvage what they can in a world gone horribly wrong and to adjust to the changes forced upon them by the lack of electricity, a population decimated by a virulent flu, and the collapse of government. 

Beatrix, however, was annoying and almost everything connected to her part of the story was more than a little pedantic. Much of the time, I wanted to shake her sense of righteousness. (Obviously, if she and her activist friends had been in charge, the world would never have descended into to chaos.)

I'm happy that there are people who stand up for their beliefs (many of which I agree with), but ugh--the smug, condescending attitude of the Beatrix before and after the collapse is irritating. 

Beatrix has good qualities, but the author's attempt to give her this activist background has such a holier-than-thou feeling. Being committed to a cause is one thing; being smug and condescending is another.

Carson's journey on foot across the continent to find Beatrix has him meeting more good and generous people than dangerous ones. I love the idea that people would be so generous, sharing the little they have with others, and I know that this could be the saving grace of humanity in such a situation--it might be hopeful to expect such generosity from so many. 

I don't regret reading The Lightest Object and the writing is excellent, but especially with what is going on in our society today, it may be too optimistic.

NetGalley/Algonquin Books
Dystopian. July 9, 2019. Print length: 329 pages.
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I’m going back and forth with my feelings on THE LIGHTEST OBJECT IN THE UNIVERSE. I’m always on board with dystopian futures, but this one was just a little too close to home and made me a bit uncomfortable. Unfortunately the plot and writing didn’t make up for the anxiety the description of what happens when electricity goes out for good and the world falls apart gave me.

There is also an underlying love story, which was certainly the beat part of the book to me. Carson is in love with Beatrix, who is on the other side of the country, and so he decides to walk the through the States to find her. Cults, vandals, and lack of food make this a hard journey, of course. However, I do wish I cared a bit more for the two characters. A little more heart would have made me much more invested, though I did appreciate the sentiment that love and community will soldier on despite the worst odds.
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I've been really excited to read this one! What I didn't realize was how much the story goes back and forth between the two main characters. I'm not a huge fan of books with multiple characters narrating, and I felt this one was a little too disorganized in that method. I really love the concept, just not the execution.
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I DNF’d this around halfway, because nothing substantial had happened to make me feel compelled to finish it. I found the format of the book itself a bit frustrating - every chapter switched between the two main characters multiple times and it felt like just as I was interested in something the focus would shift to the other character. This book didn’t have enough action and it didn’t make up for it with beautiful writing or well-developed characters. I think a lot of people will like this book for what it is, but to me it was just okay.
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It’s getting harder to write dystopian novels, I think. The writing here is as beautiful but the story itself didn’t capture me the way I thought it would. The back and forth between the stories of the two main characters seemed abrupt and I never really got the sense of wanting them to find each other.
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The Lightest Object in the Universe by Kimi Eisele is a recommended post-apocalyptic novel.

A flu pandemic sweeps the world, twice. Protests are already tearing the country apart when society completely breaks down after a cyber attack takes out the electrical grid, along with the global economy and everything else. What is left is a world of individuals on their own who must know how to survive by their own wits and means. Carson is living on the East Coast when the collapse happens, while the woman he has been having a long-distance relationship with, Beatrix, lives on the West Coast. While Beatrix finds herself trying to work with her neighbors to create a cooperative community, set up a radio station, and watch out for the gangs of unruly teenagers on bikes who call themselves T-Rizers, Carson sets out to cross the country on foot to find Beatrix.

The narrative alternates between Carson and Beatrix's point-of-view, with a few sections told through teenage Rosie's eyes. Along Carson's journey he encounters a wide variety of people, most of which are adapting to the new world, mostly helpful. Many are heading toward the compound of a man called Jonathan Blue and the Center he leads in Wyoming. He has taken over the radio frequencies and offers food and community for all who come and join his self-styled religious cult. People across the country are headed toward his group, while others stay in place and try to survive by their own strength and wits.

I would probably scoff at this kinder, gentler post-apocalyptic novel, except for the absolutely exceptional writing - and the quality of the writing is exquisite. She also delves deep into her characters, who are good people. You will want the best to happen to them, even if you, like me, doubt the vision created here. There is also a little too much implied finger-pointing about the "various evil whatever entities that brought us to this horrid path, but look at how we can overcome" going on. 

Eisele has envisioned a collapse of society that is actually somewhat optimistic. One would imagine that the actual violence is taking place somewhere off the page, because this novel is more about hope, community efforts, and a new beginning, which is kind of nice, but not highly likely in reality. If people can't get along when they are living (generally, in comparison) comfortable lives, how would the end of society suddenly make them try? Beatrix scoffs at armed guards protecting her neighborhood. Really? Digging composting toilets with your neighbors doesn't necessarily bring people together and make them want to share all they have with others. I also found the idea that thousands of people would head off to a cult located in Wyoming a fantastical fabrication.

In the final analysis, suspend your disbelief and read this novel for the determination of Carson to get to Beatrix. 3.5

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.
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An optimistic book about the end of the world? Yes! Not since Station Eleven have I read  such a hopeful book about the destruction of life as we know it. Kimi Eisele's wondrous The Lightest Object in the Universe is, at its heart, a love story of two 30 somethings separated by distance and circumstances. But is is so much more than that - a cross-country journey of survival; the faith and strength of a small community struggling to survive and the terror of a savage and uncivilized society.   

Carson, on the East Coast, is desperate to find Beatrix, a woman on the West Coast (who he met briefly).  He starts out on an amazing journey encountering madmen and survivalists,  gangs of all sorts, religious fanatics, destroyed cities, and desolate landscapes, all the while hoping to find Beatrix.

Meanwhile, Beatrix  and her neighbors begin to construct a cooperative community, complete with animals, a vegetable garden and lots more.  Optimistic for the future and excited to be starting over, they plan to survive, doing whatever it takes to build home.

Like Station Eleven, this is a book about the need for and importance of community, and for connection, This is a book about the desire to survive the unimaginable and to find your heart. Kin Eisele does a beautiful job of bringing us into the devastated world through her lyrical writing. Alternating between Carson's story and Beatrix's, she keeps the suspense and sense of doom building, but finishes with a gentleness and a hope for the future. Give this book some time to grow on you, be willing to suspend your disbelief (I am not optimistic about society's ability to come together and rebuild so quickly) and you will be rewarded with a good read.
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I count dystopian or post-apocalyptic novels among my favorites, but having read quite a few of them over the years I’ve started to realize that finding something even a little different in the genre is not easy – not that I’m going to let that keep me from trying.  Kimi Eisele’s The Lightest Object in the Universe is one dystopian novel that does manage to stand out from the crowd a bit. And that’s both the good news and the bad news.

When the world economy finally crashes from all the abuses it’s suffered at the hands of incompetent and criminal manipulators over the decades, it drags governments and the whole power grid down with it.  The United States, it seems, is particularly hard hit by the implosion.  Suddenly, cell phones, personal computers, tablets, and smart watches are little more than plastic bricks of various sizes and shapes. Mass communication is a thing of the past.  Ready or not, everyone is on his own, and survival is something that will have to be worked at every day for the rest of your life.  And it won’t be easy. 

Carson and Beatrix are on opposite ends of the country when it happens.  The pair met just days before the collapse, but both of them remember the sparks that flew during the little time they were able to share together before Beatrix had to return to the West Coast.  Now, Carson is determined somehow to make his way from one coast to the other – and he is prepared to walk all the way even without knowing whether or not Beatriz will be there when, or if, he finally gets there.

What makes The Lightest Object in the Universe different from most novels of its type is its ever-present sense of optimism and goodwill, a feeling that the good people in the world so overwhelmingly outnumber the bad ones that things will work out in the end.  Everywhere our main characters turn they are met with people willing to share their expertise or whatever else they can spare. Oh, sure, there are some bad guys out there who will gladly kill and rape at the drop of a hat, but they never seem to get the upper hand for long.  But this brings us to the “good news-bad news” scenario I mentioned earlier.

I suppose that Kimi Eisele’s novel exposes me as being more a cynic than an optimist because I was never able to get completely comfortable with an apocalyptic world in which the crime rate is seemingly lower now than it was in the world that preceded it.  This is a world, in fact, in which most of the crime - and even that is mostly theft and relatively minor assault - is perpetrated by pre-teens and teens on bicycles.  If already dangerous neighborhoods and large cities are violently tearing themselves apart, it is all happening behind the scenes. This allows the overall sense of optimism to be maintained, but it kept me wondering what was happening elsewhere, and how long it would be before those worlds would collide with this one.  That’s the bad news – at least for more cynical readers like me.

The good news is that this is an uplifting novel, one filled with hope and confidence in human nature, that I enjoyed reading despite my occasional twinges of doubt.  It is more a story about the creation of a new world than it is one about the destruction of an old world.

And that just may be exactly what you need right now, so take a look.
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Everything has fallen apart but Carson is determine to cross the US to find Beatrix, a woman he's in love with despite having spent only a few days with her. Beatrix returns to the US from Mexico to find her colleagues gone, her neighborhood completely different, and a new purpose.  Rosie, the teen who lives downstairs from Beatrix is desperate to keep her grandmother from forcing her to go to the Center, where a preacher still able to send out signals over the radio promises all is going to be wonderful.  The best parts of this are in the small moments- how these characters and others make do, feed themselves, create new families.  It's a little heavy handed early on about how "we" brought this on ourselves (enough already with the capitalism is bad bit)- almost so much so that I thought about putting it down.  Then, however, I realized I really wanted to know what was going to happen.  This is ultimately about remaking society and, after some extremely sad parts, became hopeful.  Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.  For readers of literary fiction looking for a beautifully written post apocalyptic tale.
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The Lightest Object in the Universe follows Carson and Beatrix, a couple that began a long-distance relationship prior to the apocalypse, an event that unfolded over years but was cemented by the final loss of the nation's power grid. As they both grapple with how to proceed in a world with no electricity, very little gasoline, and not even a reliable national mail service, the reader watches as Beatrix tries to establish a community where she lives and Carson decides to set out on foot to be with his love.

What is so utterly unique about this dystopian story is just how real it feels. Eisele's apocalypse starts very much where the world is today. There is not a single thing that happens in this story that isn't 100% plausible given the right conditions. Eisele's smooth narrative style moves back and forth quickly between Carson and Beatrix (and towards the end, Rosie), propelling the reader through the novel at lightning pace - I finished this book in two days! I loved each character's examinations of their previous life against the bleak blank slate that is their future, and also how each character's past lives have followed them into the apocalypse, framing how they see the world and the decisions they make.

Overall, I'm very impressed with this novel. I read a lot of dystopian fiction and this one is definitely worth reading.
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I have never read a post-apocalypse themed book with a happy ending which is what drew me to this story initially. The story takes place after all technology and corporations go down after a flu wipes out huge portions of the population. 
The story is told from the perspective of the two main characters. Beatrix, a strong willed activist and Carson, a high school principal who was a history teacher beforehand. The two were having a long distance relationship when everything went down.  Though no cities are specifically mentioned some clues lead me to believe that Beatrix was in the San Francisco area and Carson was in maybe Chicago or New York? Anyways, one of the last things Carson told Beatrix is that he would find her if the grid shut down. Luckily she decides to stay home and try to rehabilitate her neighborhood to be more self sustaining and Carson begins a long trek westward to find the woman he loves. 
Carson writes in his journal the stories or histories of the people he comes across as well as letters to Beatrix which are being delivered hopefully via a network of young bicyclists known as the Cyclicals who deliver mail across town and across country. 
The story begins with large chunks of the story told from each person and as the book progresses the switches in character become quicker with no real break in between them. I found this very interesting and made the story all the harder to put down. I definitely recommend it.
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It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine

For its first third, I found The Lightest Object in the Universe to be deeply frustrating. Here I am reading a novel about the end of the world - flu has wiped out a huge chunk of humanity, the government just sort-of decided to stop working, commerce has collapsed, and the electrical grid has stopped reducing iPhones and computers to useless blocks of plastic and metal - and the world stubbornly refuses to end. Where were the Nuke Pooches, the marauding cannibal, road warriors, the blood-thirsty packs of sentient AIs, and the mushroom clouds? The problem wasn't with Kimi Eisele  (who's debut novel is one those infuriating books that makes you want to congratulate the author for creating something so unique, but at the same time, leaves you completely jealous that they can come so close to perfection with their first try); the problem was me. You see, I thought I was getting a novel about the end of the world, but Kimi Eisele wrote one about the world beginning. 

Set soon after the collapse of the world as we know it, the Lightest Object in the Universe tells the story of Beatrix (a Fair Trade advocate), Carson (a school principal trying to piece his life back together after the loss of his wife), his journey across the changed landscape of the United States, and her attempt to pull together a community that is threatening to fragment as water, food, and trust become increasingly rare commodities. It's a set-up rife with potential for exploring the darkest side of human psyche, but instead the author populates her novel with charcters who see the end of the world as an opportunity to build a new society where people work together to solve problems instead of looking for ways to maximize their own survival. That's not to say that there is no danger to be found in Kimi Eisle's novel - a deadly flu seems to be getting more lethal with every outbreak, a gang of bicycling terrorists teenagers angered that their generation has lost its future threaten to derail all progress, and a strange ascension cult which promises simple solutions to complex problems are constant and real threats - but these threats are overshadowed by the combined decency of the survivors who see their own pain and loss reflected in the eyes of the people they meet on the road to anywhere. 

In the end, Kimi Eisle, dosen't see the loss of our lifestyle as an ending, but as a beginning. It's our willingness to place more importance on the invisible people that we reach through our phones than the people we see everyday in our neighborhoods that is the true end of a world worth living in, and it's the same tools that connect the world and supposedly bring us together are the things that are keeping us most apart. In The Lightest Object in the Universe it's the loss of everything we think is important that acts as the catalyst for giving the human race a chance to live again.
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