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A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor: A Novel (The Carls) Paperback – Large Print, July 21, 2020
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An Amazon Book with Buzz: "Sweet Sorrow" by David Nicholls
"With fully fleshed-out characters, terrific dialogue, bountiful humor, and genuinely affecting scenes, this is really the full package of a rewarding, romantic read."—Booklist Learn more
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Green’s novel explores the nature of the mind and, in the tradition of science fiction speculating about the possible advances in technology and how they could affect society, he examines the nature of true virtual reality and how it might build on the role of social media in our society (pgs. 182-183). Discussing the manner in which people imagine the connections between their minds and bodies both in how Carl resurrected and rebuilt April and in the Altus space, Green writes, “You are a story that you tell yourself, and even if it is not always accurate, it is who you are, and that it very important to you” (pg. 170). In some particularly timely commentary, Green examines how systems collapse and what that does to society. Specifically, after the disappearance of the Carls and the Dream, people seem to lack purpose and a recession looms (pg. 204). While Green wrote this prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the types of systemic collapses he describes evoke much of what we’re experiencing now, except that his novel portrays people feeling alienated and adrift whereas COVID has physically distanced people and left them with a sense of dread as some world leaders fail to respond to it in a helpful way. Describing the imminence of systemic collapse, Green writes in a particularly prescient section, “Focusing on efficiency for the sake of fewer and fewer powerful people would make us more vulnerable to shocks from catastrophes both expected and unexpected. Power grid failures or pandemics or cyberattacks would, in the next couple hundred years, cause some kind of permanent breakdown” (pg. 232). Further, describing the destabilization process, “The largest affecting factors will be tremendous concentration of power in the hands of fewer and fewer people, who will then destabilize the world to protect that power, large-scale isolation caused by easy alternatives to community and society, and a change in the speed of transfer of information that will be too rapid for norms and taboos to prevent it from being used maliciously” (pg. 278). In this, Green could be describing any of the changes that have occurred over the past two decades and with which societies continue to struggle in their efforts to adapt as they are redefined.
Like its predecessor, Green’s work comments on the nature of social media and fame, featuring several quotable lines such as, “The truest strength is shouldering the burden of care” (pg. 106). Green describes Andy reacting to his newfound fame following the Carls and April May’s disappearance along with the public requests for comment with a new mantra, “Can you tell them something that will make them feel better?” (pg. 33). To a certain extent, this recalls the Nerdfighter mantra, “Don’t Forget to Be Awesome.” Through Maya, Green discusses the way social media allows some people to vent their cruelty: “I understand people didn’t like April, but how does it feel like a winning strategy to go after a recently deceased murder victim? Just a not to everyone: Don’t do that. Even if you’re right, it makes you look wrong. And I had figured out by this point that how things look is more or less the same as how they are” (pg. 63). This reflects the way social media tends to group similar ideologies together. As Green writes, “People will just share the things that confirm their ideology, and those things will always exist. Our reality isn’t about what’s real, it’s about what we pay attention to” (pg. 349). Finally, Green describes this best when he writes, “We have to realize that the places where we share information are not services we use, they are places where we live” (pg. 419). Based on that, they should be viewer like any other community and regulated similarly.
Despite the novel’s warnings, Green offers hope for humanity’s goodness and ability to overcome the challenges we face. He writes, “You’re radically collaborative, profoundly empathetic, and deeply communal. Everyone who tells you anything different is selling the fear that is the only thing that can break that nature. They do that because it turns people into devices. My only advice: Never do that to another person, and do not let anyone do it to you” (pg. 445). As a sequel, “A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor” more than succeeds in building on the original, both in plot and themes, and going further with them in a way that is satisfying to readers of the original work.
I am going to stop now and recommend that you buy the book. It really is remarkable.