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Axiom's End

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A wholly unique and interesting alternate universe.  Really enjoyed the world-building in this story even if the plot did meander a bit at times.  Will be engaged to find out more about Ampersand and his world.  Relationships in that world seem, well, otherworldly and I never truly cared enough about the Cora relationships to want more of those.  Her family so far just seemed like a way for her to think of Olive in dangerous times in order to raise the stakes.

I will be excited to see where this series (just assuming) ends up going.  My biggest desire would be more story about the aunt and the CIA agent, both separately and apart.
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Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis follows Cora Sabino, an aimless former linguistics major, as she has the (mis)fortune of encountering an extraterrestrial lifeform known as Ampersand. As the government takes her family captive, she agrees to work as Ampersand’s translator and discover as much as she can about Ampersand’s people. Most of the book follows Cora’s increasing fears of xenocide against Earth as she learns about Ampersand and his past, with a conclusion that solves her immediate problems but doesn’t carry much weight.

Axiom's End is good. It's not great, but it never stops being good. The book is well structured and Lindsay Ellis clearly put a lot of hard work into making sure the rules and extraterrestrial lore all checked out and was interesting to learn about. However, this book fails in one of the most crucial elements of a captivating story. The main character is not very interesting. Ampersand, Nills, Luciana and her associates were all a lot of fun to read about. But the character they surround, Cora, does not spark joy.
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We all wonder about Government coverups of contact with aliens.  The news regularly approaches this topic.
This is the first book I have read that deals with the subject.  I don't usually read science fiction, but thought
this book a worthwhile read.
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I definitely was interested in this book mainly because I am a huge fan of Lindsay Ellis's video essays and wanted to support her first writing endeavor, and boy, was I not disappointed! This is a fantastic piece of science-fiction, full of amazing characters, world-building, and some ALIEN aliens. I was blown away with the level of detail put into the society and biology of the aliens, but also how Cora finds ways to relate to them anyway. 

Definitely recommend if you are looking for a first-contact tale that is different than the usual fare (and plenty of fun government conspiracies as well). Looking forward to the next one!
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I discovered Axiom's End through Ellis's YouTube channel, the contents of which I binged sometime early into quarantine. Her erudite visual essays gave their subject matter (most of which I was previously familiar) new light, and when she mentioned a book she had written about aliens, I thought, "Absolutely." 
     Axiom's End is very good, but far slower paced than I had anticipated. If you're hoping for easy explanations that open the door for simple conflict, Axiom's End is not for you – while the alien tech is cool, the book is not about any of that. It's far more interested in government and power, the ethics of secret-keeping, "culture shock" on an interstellar scale. It explores all these questions and more, while being clear in its intent to answer none of them. 
     While Axiom's End gripped me during specific portions, and I certainly gobbled up the ending, it took me a while to get through this book – I wouldn't call it a compulsive page-turner. That being said, I enjoyed the story immensely, and will likely read the sequel when it is released. 4/5 stars
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Thank you for the opportunity to review Axiom's End by Lindsay Ellis. I was not familiar with Ellis before reviewing this title, but I've since learned that this is outside of her typical offering. I enjoyed the book, clearly the first in a series, and will likely check out subsequent titles. It's a bit on the predictable side and character development is a little flat, but I still found this to be an enjoyable, quick read. 3.5 stars, rounded to 4.
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In the wake of a leak from her whistleblower father and a mysterious meteor strike perilously close to her job, Cora Sabino is at a loss for what to do and how to avoid the fallout. The fallout that seems to follow her home, getting her mother and younger siblings disappeared and leaving Cora herself faced with an alien who seems more interested in issuing orders than communicating. In a desperate bid to save her skin, and her family, Cora convinces the being to allow her to act as its interpreter to speak for it to the very government that’s been lying to its people about first contact for decades. The truth is a human right, but with other worldly beings involved it may lead to something far far more dangerous than Cora could have ever anticipated.

It very nearly feels like cheating to talk about Axiom’s End, Lindsay Ellis’ first novel, because I have been excited for it since she first announced that it was going to be published. As a long time fan of Ellis’ work on Youtube, I know that I like her media criticism and how she writes for videos, it was only ever a question of how well that would translate to fiction. From my totally biased perspective, it works well. The concept of the book, of first contact being revealed to the American people during the Bush administration through the eyes of a whistleblower’s estranged daughter, may seem a little odd at first but then it plays well into a core that works around and through communication and shaky, even shattered, trust.

Communication, the growth of understanding, feels like the solid core of Axiom’s End. Cora is the only person that can understand Ampersand, is the only way he can communicate with other humans, and the only human he chooses to be near. She is both his view into how humans work and the reader’s view into everything we learn about his species, Cora is how this terrifying alien creature becomes a character. And it is fascinating how easily, how nearly seamlessly, we move from Ampersand the scary monster ordering Cora around to Ampersand the stranger in a strange land frightened of this terrifying meat eater that saved his life to Ampersand the guy trying to save his fellows from captivity and imminent danger. The elements of trust play into that as well, despite herself and her unwillingness to be like her father, Cora has little to no trust for the various agents of the United States government she has to interact with as Ampersand’s interpreter. She has little reason to, given that they detained her family as soon as an alien showed up and the rumor from a coworker about regarding people being memory wiped. Her trust in Ampersand grows alongside the communication between them, with this sort of back and forth of new reveals about his history or his people and Cora’s reactions.

I have a hard time deciding if it all leads to really good character work or blooms from it. Cora and Ampersand are the core of it, there is this sort of mirroring deal with them. Ampersand is dangerous and powerful and yet also deeply distrustful and very guarded due to his fear, meanwhile Cora is a college drop out with no control over her life but she becomes Ampersand’s voice to various government agencies, the one smoothing some of his words out for human consumption, and the main view he gets into human nature. Cora’s estranged father, Nils Ortega, gets some fantastic character work through end of chapter clips of interviews or posts from his website, it winds up being a great contrast to Cora as the story goes on. The character work leaves me very much looking forward to the rest of the series.

There really was nothing that I had major complaints about with Axiom’s End, though I will admit that the climax of the novel felt a little at odds with the rest of the book and thus a little weak. Rather than being bad, I feel like this came largely from it feeling much different than the vast majority of the rest of the book. It was a little like the individual plot of this book needed to be wrapped up so here is something more action focused to help that along. I liked the continued focus on revealing bits of character history and personal truths, but parts of it definitely felt clunky. And yet, there was so much from the climax of the book that I want to talk about and dig into that I find it hard to really complain about it. It feels a lot different in a lot of ways but it ties things up nicely while also leaving room for more to happen.

It feels a little unfair to score Axiom’s End, I started reading it sure that I would enjoy it greatly. That bias starting out probably did lead to me having more fun with it than I might have otherwise. But it was also a really enjoyable read with a solid story and characters that I enjoyed. I am left entirely excited for the next Noumena novel and anything else that Ellis writes down the road. Axiom’s End gets a five out of five from me.
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Hello! Welcome back to Stardusted Reads. I'm Chris and today I'm going to be reviewing Axioms End by Lindsay Ellis. Before we get into the review I need to acknowledge that I got an e-ARC via netgalley from publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Axiom's End is the debut sci-fi novel of author and video essayist Lindsay Ellis. It is the first novel in five book book series and it follows Cora Sabino. Cora is a college aged young woman who recently flunked out of college after some stuff that happened with her dad. Her father is a whistleblower. He currently lives in Germany because of persecution he faced from the United States government and he leaked something known as the Fremda Memo. The Fremda Memo is this acknowledgement of aliens that was made by the US government. She has to deal with the aftershocks of that which includes not only public notoriety but also the United States government keeping an eye on her and her family. 

After a tense encounter with the CIA, she ends up meeting a member of the alien race that is discussed in the Fremda Memo. She agrees to help him find the group of alien refugees known as the from the Fremda Group in exchange for him helping her find her family who have been taken into government custody. 

This review will have minor spoilers in regards to the relationships that develop throughout the book. I will try to avoid any major plot spoilers. I will do my best to just avoid the actual plot events altogether or I will discuss them only in generalities but this is your spoiler warning cannot complain about it in the comments.

Now I should acknowledge that I have been an avid viewer of Ellis's video essays for about two years now. I- I know next to nothing about Ellis outside of her video essay content she's a very private individual. I do know the video essay she makes quite well I've watched the majority of them more than one thing, I'm familiar with the argument she makes and I am familiar with the tropes and themes that she likes at least what- she presents in her video essays. And while this familiarity with her content gave me high hopes because I do enjoy her content quite a bit it also gave me the knowledge to sort of expect where the plot was going to go and anticipate a certain beats that someone who is not familiar with her content might otherwise miss until they became more and more apparent.

Okay so I'm not going to be doing character analysis. I don't have much to say about the characters but I am going to be doing a quick rundown of each of
the characters I'm going to be discussing because I do not want to slow down the pace of the other sections of the video by explaining who these people
are, I'd rather just do it up front here so you guys know who I'm talking about going in. 

Cora is the main character. She's the daughter of Nils Ortega and Demi Sabino. She's 21 if I recall correctly and she flunked out of college. After a tense encounter with a- the CIA, a she ends up running into Ampersand, the alien I mentioned in the summary and agrees to become his interpreter in
exchange for him helping her figure out what happened to her family.

Ampersand is not a main character but he is main character adjacent in my assessment of him. He is not the love interest. I swear this alien is not the love interest. He's a member of the alien species. He's a higher up in the society. Um, he's very high up in the very hierarchic- hier hierarchical society that they live in a step below the Autocrat of the society. He is known as an Oligarch. He's looking for the Fremda Group which is the group of aliens that is discussed in the Fremda Memo. These are a group of refugees who fled the home planet after they were attempt- after an attempted genocide on them. He's
a genetic member of the population but he was not included in their escape and has been held captive by another alien race and during those 40 years the Fremda group has been under the protection of the United States government..

Nils Ortega is Cora's father. He lives in Germany. He had- he leaked the Fremda Memo. He experienced persecution from the United States government due to his leaking of the memo. He has little to no relationship with his children and is overall painted as a not great guy. 

Demi, Felix, and Olive Sabino are Cora's mother and siblings respectively. 

Luciano Ortega is Cora's aunt and Nils's younger sister. She's also Demi's best friend. She was a government agent working for the organization that helped a deal with the Fremda group. 

Sol Kaplan is a CIA agent that initially clashes with both Cora and Luciana at the start of the novel.

To start off, I would like to talk about the utter lack of diversity in this book. I suppose utter lack is a bit of an overstatement but it is not much of one. The book is incredibly white all of the main characters and characters we spend time with are either white or aliens. A few characters of color are mentioned in passing such as a Black woman who we see a total of two times and an Asian man we see a total of I think three or four times- one of the themes is his death. These are not characters we learn much about and these are not characters that the narrative encourages us to care about whatsoever. 

There is one supporting character that is Jewish. This is Sol. He mentions he's Jewish in one scene he has with Cora. I am not entirely- I'm not qualified to talk about the strength of the Jewish rep in him but I would say that it if it had not been for the scene where he explicitly stated he do you wish I would have not had any idea he was Jewish. 

Cora is explicitly mentioned to be lgbt+. We're not given a specific label for her but she does show attraction to men and women throughout the book so I would- I consider that rep but that is the only rep that it has going for in that regard. 

I think that Ellis could have done a lot better here. She- this book is published by a big five publisher. There could have been sensitivity readers there could have been there could have been more re and there could have been sensitivity readers to make sure that rep was good. I just am very disappointed that they didn't do it and I am disappointed in Ellis for not including any of the rep in here. I'm hoping she'll be rectified in next four books but I obviously have no guarantee that that is the case.

Next I am going to be focusing on some technical details. This section is going to be about pacing and the one after this is going to be about the technical writing of the book. 

Next let's talk about the pacing of the book it starts off slow. It just takes care to establish the characters and their relationships as they are at the start of the novel. and also the aliens and their culture. It also takes time to establish what Cora's life is like before- before the,um, before the actual events of the
plot kick off. Because of how slow these are into the book well it took me a bit longer than I would have liked to actually get into the book and start enjoying it. 

It felt largely like there were too few things happening in the book for how many pages there were in between them. A lot of the focus was on
establishing worldbuilding as I mentioned before. So we get a picture of the aliens we get a picture of their culture and the nuances of their society
but we don't get much actual plot. I would say there are a few plot events sprinkled in but a large portion of the start is dedicated to this establishing of the characters and of the world building. There is not much beyond that us see start which is part of the reason it is so slow to me. We get that very quick establishment of Cora and Ampersand's relationship but after that quick establishment stagnates at the friendly-ish professional relationship that they have for not- for I would say the- not like most of the both before the majority of the book if that makes any sense. 

The pacing does eventually pick up. I'm not actually sure is the pacing itself picks up or if more interesting things just happen but I would argue that is simply a matter of perception and to me the pacing felt slow so that's what I'm going to put it in your because this is my review. You can't stop me. Nonetheless it did feel a lot faster once we got more buildup of Cora and Ampersand's relationship and as it began to shift into- as it began to shift. It also- The pacing also picked up once the antagonistic forces of the book became clear and once the threats they pose became much more pressing in the narrative.

Onto the writing. Ellis's writing style is what you would expect from watching her video essays in my opinion. Her humor is there. It's the same
type of humor you would find in her videos and it shines through in the writing the same way does in her videos. It's not overwhelming but it is there. It
is very much there and is very much something you can tell is there on purpose. 

I don't have anything big here as I should say other than that it is to me at least a book that is very obviously written by Lindsay Ellis and
your mileage is going to vary, um, in regards to how you feel about that. Other than that I don't think the writing is too notable as a whole. Other than that the writing style isn't too notable. 

It is slightly more conversational than I would typically seek out and again there is Ellis's humor that is it sprinkled throughout. But it is a pretty standard writing style otherwise but it is as a whole of your writing you would expect from a debut author. It is not yet it's own thing but it is still passable and engaging.

Onto the setting. The book is set in 2007 I think the setting really works for the book. The themes of the book are deeply rooted in the political disillusionment that was growing at the time and also the economic struggles that were just on the cusp of happening and while I do think is very thematically relevant it did not personally work for me. I say personally did I do think the time period is the correct choice for this book. I don't think the thematic weight would have been quite the same it was if it were said in me nebulous now but personally it didn't work for me. I am 19. I'm- My birthday is at the end of the year in November and so for most of 2007 I was six. I have a number of memories from 2007. I can remember stuff that happened
but it is all very hazy. I remember kindergarten. I remember, um, I remember some stuff in 2008, notably the 2008 election um. I remember- I just- I
remember a lot of stuff like that. But I don't really remember what it was like to have been alive in 2007 and so it led to this weird cognitive dissonance where I remembered some things but I didn't remember enough. I, in fact, have no idea what the technology level was at the time and it just led to a cognitive dissonance that took me out of the story more than I would care to admit but this is very much a me thing I think that people that are around three years older than me you won't have any issue with this because it is rooted in my personal hazy memories of the time and I don't think people younger than me who have no real memory of the time will have any issue with the time. 

Also it is a very very millennial novel. It is rooted in the generational struggles of the United States millennial and, well, I am NOT a millennial. I am a Zoomer. I was born in 2000. I'm gen Z, and I just I cannot relate to these generational struggles of the Millennial because I- I would say that a key difference is that these Millennials have- have memories of becoming disillusioned with the government. They have memories of the economic struggles of our current era beginning. But in my memory these have just always been happening I can't- I cannot- I can barely recall a time before the 2008 election. I can barely remember a time before the 2008 financial crisis. This is just stuff I've been living with and so it- um, that took a bit of the relatability from the characters away from you personally but again your mileage may vary.

Onto the world-building. Obviously most of the worldbuilding is spent on the aliens. Since there is no new human society we have to learn there is no new setting that we really have to take in beyond the time period. Most of the time is spent establish- establishing the aliens and their culture their society their language more than is spent on- and I mean that is pretty much all of the world building that we need. It is less focused on the actual biology of the aliens. There's no- there's no discussion of chemical processes or there's no discussion of- there's no real discussion of how the aliens come to be. There's- we don't know anything about their like natural environment. We don't really get any of that. It's focused mostly on their culture. There- There are brief conversations about their biology such as the fact that they're post-natural- a term whose meaning I'm still not completely certain of. Much more of the page time is sent building their culture and the nuances of it and the stuff associated with that.  Even then we don't ever get a completely clear picture of their society. I would think this is a purposeful decision on Ellis's end to show just how incomprehensible and well alien the society can be to our human minds and our human perception of society.

There's a heavy focus on language and how the aliens use language in particular. They have three different types of languages and these either used in different contexts depending on what is going on. There is- One such language and the only one I'm going to be discussing is high language which is something that can only happen between members of this species and is their most intimate form of communication. It is not comprehensible to humans really. Obviously a human created it so it's not completely incomprehensible to us but it is outside the bounds of humanity and it is never something that is explained to us. You just have to sit- You just have to infer what it is. In my opinion the careful way that language is used and crafted in regards to cultures was very well done and I applaud Ellis for doing so.

There's also some discussion about how the alien society handles relationships There's a type of relationship they have that does not track to human relationships whatsoever. It is called- it is described as dynamic fusion bonding and it is said to be a form of non monogamous pair bonding. And it encompasses so much more than just sexual or romantic relationships or even familial relationships. It's just this vague and all-encompassing thing that we don't get much details on in this book but I will definitely getting more of it in the next book so I'll leave it at that but I did like how this relationship was handled. I like- I love the idea behind it and I cannot wait for it to be explored more.

Finally I'm going to be talking about the relationships that are within this. This is the section where the spoilers are going to be coming in. They're going to be minor spoilers for every relationship in this book that is even minorly explored. So if you don't want that I click off this video. I'm not going to be talking about anything else other than this for the rest of it. 

So the first relationship I'm going to be talking about is Cora and Ampersand. Uh, this is the relationship that is the most developed in the book. I can say that very confidently. Part of what I find so compelling about this relationship is that it is, in my opinion, a romantic relationship. It hits the same beats as a romantic relationship. There- the tension between them is very easily read as a romantic tension and I just adore that uh. Part of the reason I can so confidently sit here and say yeah this was probably a romantic relationship is my familiarity with Ellis's video essay content, particularly her video essay
"My Monster Boyfriend." This is where she talks in depth about relationships with human women and monsters and, um, she talks about the history of them in movies in particular but she also talks about the appeal of them and why women can find them so appealing. And so that makes me feel very confident in my notion that Ellis is building a romantic relationship here. I'm supposed to read this is a romantic relationship and hope- I hope that somewhere is actually going I'm very confident in that it's going in that direction so if you don't like a, um, human-inhuman relationship don't watch this video- I mean don't read this book. That's what I meant. It just- this will not be the book for you and it probably won't- to get into the specifics of the relationship.

Their relationship starts with both of them being terrified of the other. So Ampersand has a perception of humanity that is less than ideal. He sees humanity
as billions of violent flesh-eating organisms. And obviously we can understand Cora's fear of him because he is described as utterly inhuman- there's-
he has no human features. I think her fear of him is more nature than his fear of us so I'm not gonna be spending too much time on that because I think we all understand. And so we see them stop fearing each other. We see them build trust, and we see them become more friendly with each other. And while
their relationship does kind of freeze in this professional friendly-ish relationship for a good chunk of the book it does eventually build into a very
very very close friendship that borders on romance. I- I'd say it's very mutual pining. 

And so they become closer and closer and it culminates in a scene that is so tender that I thought I was reading a romance book for a while. So Cora is upset about something that happened and she- Ampersand wants to take care of her. He wants to comfort her. So she has to walk him through the steps of comforting a human and she tells him where to touch her and how to touch her and it's just one of the most tender things in the world and I'm- I'm in awe of it. And we get a few more scenes like this. 

This is probably a plot spoiler. This is probably a plot spoiler so when I put my hand- so as long as I have my hand up I'm going to be talking about that. We learn about a lie that Ampersand told- told Cora. and she gets very angry with him and even when she's angry at him, she still cares about him she still wants him to be safe and I'm just- I, mhm, I just love that. I love it so much. Oh there is also a scene towards the end where he holds Cora like she's the most important thing in his life and it's just so good. It's so good. Um it's just perfection. Unfortunately this is the only well-developed relationship in the book and it is the only one that is actually explored. 

The next relationship is Cora and her mother plus her siblings. Cora and her mother are established to have a very rocky relationship from the start
of the book. But beyond learning that Cora- Uh, Demi is very judgy of Cora and that Cora disagrees with some of the stuff her mom does that is not really explored and even that little bit I mentioned is in the first few chapters and not- not anywhere. Demi, Cora's mother, is barely in the book we don't see much of her and we don't see much of the relationship and it's- and it's not really shown or explored or explained how or when the relationship soured. I would have loved to see more of it but there's four more books so I'm hopeful though we'll get more but i'm not certain. 

In regards to Cora's- [I cut too soon rip]mIt is established that Cora is annoyed with her younger brother and that she is protective of her young sister but the emotions behind it are never really there. they- they were never really relationships that I personally got invested in.
Next we're going to be talking about Cora and Nils. While we never actually see Nils in the story his relationship with Cora is probably the most developed of her relationships outside of her relationship with Ampersand. A very clear picture of their relationship is painted from the start. It is made clear
that Nils uses his family to push his agenda and it is unclear how much or if he cares about them at all. And this is established from the very start of the novel and we see hints of it throughout. Even- um- As Nil's actions continue to affect him and his family and we see a few of his emails that clarify his motivation. And it's also very clear how Cora feels about him. She hates him. She's very angry at him but we see we also see the very complex ways that she still cares about him and she still loves him. It is no Burn Our Bodies Down but I still like the ways that this relationship was portrayed. 

Cora and Sol. I am bring this- I'm bring this up purely on the basis of it's completely undeveloped. There's no development for this relationship whatsoever. So Cora and Sol start off hating each other and it's a mutual hate. Like they cannot stand each other. They do not get along and at some point in the novel it becomes what I would consider a very begrudging friendship but it's not explored how we get to this point. We don't see how it becomes a begrudging friendship we just go- we just jump from them hating each other to them kind of being friends and I thought that was just incredible the unsatisfying and I would have loved to have seen more development of their relationship in the actual book.

Axiom's End is a promising debut novel and an even more promising start to a five book series. While I have my issues with the book it was overall something I enjoyed and it was a very fun reading experience. I'm looking forward to seeing Ellis grow as a writer and, um, I'm looking forward to seeing how this series develops. That is all I have for now, and I will see you guys in the next video. Bye!
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A first contact story told from the point of view of the interpreter, Axiom’s End is a novel that is full of fascinating ‘what ifs.’ As the estranged daughter of an infamous hacker, Molly has always been subject to more scrutiny than most. Yet, when he releases what his followers believe is his greatest missive, things start to get very hairy for her. She accidentally steals one of the aliens that are fighting their intergalactic battle almost invisibility on Earth. The alien named Ampersand sees an advantage in using Molly as his interpreter and we see what motivation she has to form this relationship.

Axiom’s End is not your simple ‘aliens come to Earth’ story. There are deep threads running through this novel… themes likes government coverups, The Truth Movement, and the fear of the ‘other.’ I found Molly to be such an interesting character to follow and the author does such a great job of showing the reader the conflicts in her head as she wrestles at times with certain exposure and dire consequences.

Overall, this is a book I can definitely recommend. It has human emotions down; it caught me with the feels several times. I liked the writing and am excited to follow Ellis on more adventures in this series.

4.5 of 5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for an advanced copy for review.
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Intriguing take on first contact, set in an alternate history of the recent past, I enjoyed this one. World building was well done and the title revealed about 3/4 through. Will definitely follow the sequels.
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This felt like it was trying very hard to be hip/in-the-moment and often felt like the writerly control of language wasn’t ideal—characters “ambling” right after a terrifying experience, and so on. The ending also seemed hasty. Not a terrible book but would only recommend for people looking for very specific things. Is a somewhat interesting take on certain first contact tropes.
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There's no way this doesn't have sequel planned. Right Lindsay? Right??

How long do we extend kindness as humans or is there a limit?

This book centers around the existential (It's fucking existential!) challenges regarding first contact in the middle of the Aughts (specifically 2007). When are the public allowed to know? Who decides? What organization deals with the aliens? And what kind of information can they share, provided they are willing. 
I love Star Trek and this book has an aspect to it that reminds me of my favorite aspect of Star Trek and that is, no matter what, the Federation tries to form bonds and relationships before resorting to violence. Cora ends up a Speaker for the Alien that she calls Ampersand and their discussion about what humans can or should know and if that changes them in any way (big discussions about pre-determination and will to live) are really my favorite part. The weird bond that ends up forming is natural or as natural as an alien and human friendship can be.
My one qualm is with  the McGuffin-esque Genome. Maybe if this does flesh out into another book we can get more on that but otherwise this seemed extraneous  

I would recommend this book to readers of sci-fi in the vein of Ender's Game and who like Next Gen or Voyager.
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Lindsay Ellis has given us a good one! I won’t bother with a detailed synopsis here, as I’m of the opinion that dust jacket synopses usually reveal too much of the plot. Instead, I’ll focus on what stands out about “Axiom’s End.”

First, the central protagonist, Cora, is a good draw. She is likeable, humorous, and flawed in the most mundane ways, which makes her very relatable, and drives the overall believability of the narrative. One can imagine oneself in Cora’s shoes, acting, reacting, and feeling more or less the way she does as she is faced with existential calamity.

Second, the story is well balanced. The pacing is good, exciting without being exhausting. The lighthearted, snarky humor is tempered with a gravity of experiences and events which give a real depth to the story that is not always present in books described as “fun” and “exciting.” And it is both of those. Plus, the author has sprinkled in just enough circa-2007 choice cultural references to make us all "smh" while simultaneously pining for those times, given our current milieu.

Perhaps most of all, it is impressive to see an author explore both sides of a complicated relationship between a human and an extraterrestrial in a way that moves beyond mere “believability,” and into a feeling of “authenticity.” This begs the question: Does the author in fact have firsthand experiences of this nature? What are you not telling us, Ellis?

In the end, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I can’t wait to eat the next installment.
Four stars, highly recommended.
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Once after a particularly bad Youtuber Sci-Fi debut I told myself never again. Never again will I read a book by a Youtuber without at least hearing the reviews first.
Yet when Lindsay Ellis announced her book was getting published it immediately went on my TBR list. I jumped at the chance to read an ARC and was excited it came through. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher but it did not in anyway change my opinion of the book.
The novel takes place in 2007 and follows Cora who loses her job and immediately becomes entangled in and in a way integral to a possible government conspiracy to cover-up first contact. Cora’s family already has the governments attention as he’s a famous Internet whistleblower/conspiracy theorist.
What follows is a nice little adventure, lots of philosophical questions and overall it’s an especially nice alien story.
I appreciated both the questions and the optimism.
I thought the aliens were well done and you could tell Ellis had really thought about what contact with another species might look like. Cora is a good character though she does lose some points toward the end for stupidity in one particular act and I’m not sure how I feel about her relationship with the alien but it will be interesting to see what other people think of that one.

I also think all the Bush/ secrets stuff makes it a little dated. Really they could have just brought it forward although on the other hand I can absolutely understand why she wouldn’t want to include the particular person we have in the White House now but still…

Axiom’s End is a quick read for all the thoughtfulness throughout. It’s funny- I didn’t think too much of Lindsay Ellis in the voice of the novel but I couldn’t help think throughout that it would make a fun and easily adaptable movie.

Recommend: Yes.
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What do you get when you combine Independence Day, E.T., and The Shape of Water and set it in the early 2000's? Lindsay Ellis's science fiction debut Axiom's End, is zany, though provoking, and heartfelt in the best way!

The story starts in Los Angeles, months before the economic recession. The first 50 pages or so in this novel are the slowest parts of the story. Ellis sets up exposition before diving into the alien world building. Cora is a 20 year old UCI drop out and a little bit of a sarcastic mess, but who can blame her when her deadbeat father is the world's largest alien conspiracy theorist? She is going through the growing pains that come with entering your twenties and while some readers may judge this, I found it relatable!

The beating heart of the story was the relationship between Ampersand and Cora, their dynamic was one of the strongest points in the entire novel. Teetering precariously between love interest and alien pseudo father figure, Ampersand gives Cora an anchor that she could never really find in any other person on earth. In turn, Ampersand discovers that Cora's kindness towards them is something that they sorely needed. They are two lonely beings made of the same star dust and by the end of the book, form bonds closer than any of the two could have imagined. I am looking forward to reading how Ellis develops this relationship even further in the subsequent sequels in the series.

I thought this book was really fun and full of unexpected monster fucker goodness. But, still, I had one problem with this book that dampened it a little for me. Cora, the protagonist, is coded as Latinx, but we are never really given any more insight into that identity except for the fact that she calls her grandma, "Abuelita". I understand that Cora is supposed to be white Latinx, but I think Ellis missed a great opportunity to relate her alien invasion storyline, in particular when dealing with refugees, to her main character's immigrant background. We never see the intersectionality of Cora's identities and as such, never get the full scope of Cora's reactions to everything going on in the book.It is especially evident when pitting it against the background in which this book takes place in-- late 2007. In 2007, there was the giant failed immigration bill, and in 2006/7 there were the giant immigration reform protests, including the very famous "May Day" aka "A day Without Immigrants". It's true that a Latinx identity does not define a person, nor should a white author try to make it so, but I do believe that Cora fundamentally would have had a lot of layered feelings because of where she falls in the diaspora. In the sequels to come, I hope to see Ellis restructure Cora's inner feelings with this in mind, but yeah I couldn't deal with the vague Latinx background given to Cora. It felt like she was a spicy white-- just to give even more vague diversity points to this book.
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truth is a human right.

i loved the last 15%

axoim’s end was very hard for me to get into, but that’s probably my fault because i am not a huge fan of science fiction. it’s probably a lot more accessible than other books in the sci-fi genre. i don’t actually have anything negative to say, really, except that it didn’t work for me and i skimmed. a lot. i think the themes are interesting and the characters are a good tool to explore the themes, but i am just not a huge sci-fi fan so i feel like i can’t fully appreciate those aspects of the story. i’m not angry at it though, i liked the conversations it wanted to have.

i’m waffling, but that’s because i like the world building and the story ellis wants to tell – but actually reading it took a lot of effort. i liked the very beginning of cora getting to the government base and i liked the very end when cora is getting away from the government base. everything in between is a blur.

i really enjoyed cora as a character, to be honest – she felt realistic. she is passive, angry at times, and frustrated with the government, her family, and herself. i am a very character-driven reader, and i never felt any kind of connection to any of the characters, but they are what kept me reading.

ampersand, the alien who uses cora to translate to the government, learning how to communicate with cora was probably the most enjoyable part of the novel. consent was emphasized and there are multiple scenes of them learning to trust each other. despite the “he is an alien” thing, ampersand is very humanoid – i liked the “do not anthropomorphize him” conversation where the government official is essentially condemning cora for having empathy for ampersand (and the aliens in general). there’s also a conversation between cora and ampersand where ampersand says “don’t ask questions to which the answer will only upset you” and i loved it.

“…his forefingers gently fell onto her crown, through her messy hair, and then gently glided down toward her ears. his touch was more complete, less mechanical then it had been the last time he had done this. a rhythmic stroking pattern, five seconds on, five seconds off. he grazed his thumbs through the little riverbeds left by the tears on her cheeks.”

you can tell ellis had a lot of fun developing the backstory, the aliens, the naming, the linguistics. also – genie? like the feral child? love it

there’s a lot of different conversations happening:
- government obstruction
- conspiracy theorists
- continuously learning to empathize
- familial influence
- justifying genocide
- linguistic understanding
- personhood
- “ends justify the means”
- hopelessness and helplessness
- eugenics

“empathy and ethics, in a time of great suffering, have a way of being pushed to the side in the interest of survival… they neither understand now empathize with the inherent trauma of torture, of captivity, and of taking lives for survival.”

i think it’s interesting how much of lindsay is noticeable throughout the novel – which isn’t a bad thing. things like sentence structure, how character’s explain things, how cora and ampersand interact, all give off very lindsay ellis vibes. it’s somewhat comforting if you watch her youtube videos, but it doesn’t distract from the actual novel. in one of her videos, lindsay talks about how to humanize monsters and aliens in media – it’s all about the eyes – and it’s really cool to see that pop up in her own novel.

“we humans somehow manage with only the limits of human language.” “yes, you do. but i am not human.”

thank you to the publisher and netgalley for providing my review copy
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With much of our society in upheaval these days, including fighting a difficult-to-eradicate source of death, social unrest and a government that is mistrusted by many, Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis touches on similar themes, albeit adorned in a science fiction mantle. Main protagonist Cora Sabino finds herself caught up in a heretofore unknown cover-up of an alien presence on our planet, one that involved her family and decades of governmental secrecy. Through a series of astonishing events, she finds herself in the position of being the English language interpreter for a somewhat newly-arrived alien.  Much of the earth is unknowingly facing an existential crisis, and she could be the one force in the universe that may prevent humanity’s total destruction.

Axiom’s End is an exciting thriller, not only providing a roller coaster ride of a plot, but also offering philosophical discussions about the nature of life, the importance of truth, and the power of compassion. Parallels could be drawn between the relationship of the characters in the recent Netflix reboot of Lost in Space and the characters in Axiom’s End, but the latter tale goes far deeper into the perspectives of both the alien and earthly individuals. The novel is far more mature in its examination of the interaction between the two entities.

Ellis’ writing is quite compelling, providing characters that are well-drawn and a narrative that could easily be transposed into a cinematic treatment. I pictured Chloë Grace Moretz in Cora’s role, and Eric Winter (of the show The Rookie) as Special Agent Kaplan. Cora’s aunt Luciana was embodied by Holly Hunter in my mind, Dr. Sev by actor Ben Kingsley, and Agent Vincent Park by Shawn Ashmore (also from The Rookie). As Cora’s father is an internet whistle-blower living in exile out of the country, of course I had in mind Julian Assange for his part, although I believe the book character is an American with dark hair.

For my conservative readership, some of the language does get a bit colorful from time to time. The characters are thrust into multiple circumstances of an extreme and sometimes deadly variety, and their reactions reflect that. F-bombs are a fairly common occurrence, but given the nature of the situations, it didn’t feel overly excessive to me. That said, if Axiom’s End goes on to obtain a cinematic treatment, the language is going to have to be softened to achieve the more lucrative PG-13 rating.

An overwhelming majority of the titles that I read for review are novels set in 19th century England, so delving into a world of aliens and government cover-ups was quite a detour. My screen habits tend to have a higher percentage of science fiction, however. Our household greatly enjoys the worlds of Star Wars as well as Star Trek, and the aforementioned revamped Lost in Space. This novel fit into that sensibility quite easily. I enjoyed the exciting plot, the philosophical aspects that arose between Cora and the alien force, and the compelling perspective on human/alien language differences. If linguistics is of any interest to the reader, Axiom’s End has much to offer in that regard. From its opening sentences to final lines, Axiom’s End held my attention and provided a thrilling summer diversion for this reader.
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As a massive fan of Lindsay Ellis's video essays, Axiom's End was one of my most anticipated reads of 2020. However, I left this book feeling ambivalent and disappointed. Axiom's End is aimless. The plot, the setting, the characters - pointless. What was the purpose of anything? Even after plodding through this, I struggle to describe what the plot was or what purpose was served by this being set in 2007. I couldn't connect to the characters - Cora felt like a plot puppet with no real arc of her own, and Ampersand was an icky alien Phantom stand in - and therefore just didn't care at all about what might happen to any of them.
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I had never heard of Lindsay Ellis before, but I love science fiction, especially when there is any kind of science in it (I have read books where you just walk through a magic portal into another world, and those tend to annoy me). I read Axiom's End with great interest and very few qualms. 

The author is obviously intelligent, and she used that braininess to good effect by focusing heavily on the specifics of trying to communicate with a very alien "mind." (Think "profound autism plus".) The many conversations we are shown are consistent, the learning on both conversants' parts make sense, and the unknowns are handled well -- plenty of that, so no easy answers, even with the aid, late in the book, of an electronic tablet that was some help. 

I wish, ideally, that the human characters would have felt more real to me, more well-rounded. And though it's probably my addled brain, but I felt there were a few too many aliens of different builds with different aims and different names or species or groups, for me to keep them entirely straight. I suppose I should have drawn a kind of map or list of characters, and it would have helped if I'd tried to draw each of them roughly, when they were first described. I'm not that great at picturing people from their written descriptions, and how much harder it was to know one "monster" from another.

Still, I read every word, found the slowly building relationship between protagonist and main alien moving and believable. Then again, it was utterly as believable to imagine the latter eating the former if the circumstances changed.

The point of view was third-person human omniscient, so when the narrative used certain expressions, I was briefly pulled out of the story. Example: "Having hardly eaten anything in at least a day, she was fucking ravenous." Sure, Cora would talk that way, but it felt inelegant without quotes or an indication that this was her thought, as part of the main narrative.

Similarly, when Cora spoke to the aliens, she would too often use vernacular phrases that they wouldn't have been able to understand, such as "on equal ground" or "at the end of the day." 

Finally, Ellis tackled some complex themes within this story, including anthropological, sociological, and interpersonal. All done naturally and creatively. I may not recall the more contentious scenes in the final part of the book, but I will not quickly forget the interaction between Cora and the creature with whom she built a rapport.
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This was just embarrassing.

Overwritten and obtuse, Lindsay Ellis' first novel is in desperate need of a complete editorial overhaul. From the amateurish insistence on passive voice...

"The voice belonged to Demi." the cartoonish depictions of the protagonist's emotions...

"Cora thundered, her words reverberating through the trees, through the atmosphere, through the entire galaxy, through space, through time and eternity." the downright bizarre descriptions of violence...

"The walls of her wound canyons were shiny and pink, stripped of their clotting, but devoid of the blood that normally rushed out when blood clots were torn off."

...Axiom's End alternates between the writing style of a Reddit post and a self-published horror novel.

It can also be aggressively difficult to parse, particularly when it comes to interchangeable proper nouns and character relationships. Ellis constantly refers to Cora's parents by their first names, which makes it sound like they're some weird adults she used to live with, not people she's related to. And while some leeway can be given in regards to the alien species she eventually encounters, it's ultimately a problem of clarity that persists throughout the entire book.

For example...

"Nils had leaked a few days after the Fremda Memo that the Altadena Event had a CIA code name, 'Ampersand,' which had been colloquially adopted by everyone, even mainstream outlets. Cora found it a little odd that Luciana still called it by its old name."

Having finished Axiom's End, I can tell you what that paragraph is supposed to mean. But appearing as it does in chapter two, it's not intriguing. It's just baffling. And the sense that you're still not quite getting what Ellis is trying to tell you never dissipates.

There are some neat ideas buried later in the book. There's some cool physiological stuff going on with the aliens (the extended info dump about alien biology, language, and culture in the middle is actually pretty interesting) and Cora's relationship with the her alien protector... gets weird. But in the end, this is one of those books where you get to the overly-indulgent acknowledgements at the end, see all the names listed, and think, "Why didn't somebody say something?!?"
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