Title: Axiom’s End
Author: Lindsay Ellis
Blurb: It’s fall 2007. A well-timed leak has revealed that the US government might have engaged in first contact. Cora Sabino is doing everything she can to avoid the whole mess, since the force driving the controversy is her whistleblower father. Even though Cora hasn’t spoken to him in years, his celebrity has caught the attention of the press, the Internet, the paparazzi, and the government—and with him in hiding, that attention is on her. She neither knows nor cares whether her father’s leaks are a hoax, and wants nothing to do with him—until she learns just how deeply entrenched her family is in the cover-up, and that an extraterrestrial presence has been on Earth for decades.
Realizing the extent to which both she and the public have been lied to, she sets out to gather as much information as she can, and finds that the best way for her to uncover the truth is not as a whistleblower, but as an intermediary. The alien presence has been completely uncommunicative until she convinces one of them that she can act as their interpreter, becoming the first and only human vessel of communication. Their otherworldly connection will change everything she thought she knew about being human—and could unleash a force more sinister than she ever imagined.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a “first contact with aliens” book, so I was excited to crack open Axiom’s End and see what it had to offer. The answer is, quite simply, a “mixed bag.”
I found some elements of the book quite interesting, particularly the descriptions of the aliens’ cybernetically enhanced physiology and complex sociopolitical conflicts. The framing device of the aliens having serious communication problems—reminiscent of Arrival, a film/story that I adore—was also a plus for me, because I find that scenario very realistic and so it makes the premise of the story feel more authentic.
However, as much as I like the general setup of the book, I found its execution to be rather uneven.
First and foremost, Cora, the protagonist, came off as too young to me, more like a YA protagonist than an adult protagonist. And being that I’m not much a fan of YA, that made this a slightly more difficult read for me than it would have otherwise been.
Secondly, the pacing of the plot wasn’t properly balanced. It dragged quite a bit in the middle, only to speed up exponentially near the end instead of gradually building via rising action.
Lastly, other than Cora and Ampersand, the other important characters felt a little underdeveloped, due in part to the fact that the interactions between Cora and Ampersand soaked up most of the word count even at times when those other characters were present and therefore could’ve been further fleshed out.
In short, while I do applaud the author for thoroughly exploring a complex topic like alien communication, I think the other areas of the narrative could’ve used a bit more polishing to make the overall novel more compelling.
Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an eARC of Axiom’s End.