The description for Axiom''s End makes the story sound like it''s about truth, that it''ll ask questions of whether or not the public has the right to know everything the government knows. Whilst these are important questions, and ones that the book does address, this isn''t...See more
The description for Axiom''s End makes the story sound like it''s about truth, that it''ll ask questions of whether or not the public has the right to know everything the government knows. Whilst these are important questions, and ones that the book does address, this isn''t what the book meant to me, or what I really took away from it. Anyone who''s watched through Lindsay Ellis'' videos will be aware that one of the topics that seems to come up a lot is that of monsters, and about loving them. This is probably best explored in her video essay ''My Monster Boyfriend'', but is by no means the only time that she talks about it. Monsters used to be surrogates for fears, for the worries of the times when they were made. Whether it''s the fear of people of colour taking the ''virtue'' of white women that was at the heart of films like Creature From The Black Lagoon, Birth of a Nation, or even King Kong, or the fear of american values being replaced by communism in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, monsters have stood in for real life people for decades. But as long as that''s been a thing so has monsters being a source of love. Stories like Beauty and the Beast, to even further back and myths like Eros and Psyche which dates back to the 2nd century AD, tell stories of people falling in love with inhuman creatures. Lindsay Ellis talks about these themes a lot, whether it''s when she''s discussing Disney movies, or her love of Phantom of the Opera, as such I shouldn''t have been surprised to see these themes featured so heavily in her book. But damn it all, she managed to draw me into a monster romance without me realising it. One of the two leads of the novel is Cora, a young woman who''s having to deal with the fact that her absentee father is on the run from the authorities, and that his quest for ''the truth'' has made the lives of his family difficult to say the least. They''re investigated by the authorities, tailed by shadowy figures, and hounded by the press. Add on to this Cora''s difficulty with having recently moved back home with her mother, and her trouble keeping a job, and we meet a woman who''s dealing with a lot. Because of this, I wasn''t quite sure what I felt about her at first. At times I was able to identify with her, I could look at some of the struggles she was having and see similar things from different times in my life. But there were also times she came across as naive and foolish, and seemed to not really have her life together. But then really who does? The other main character is Ampersand. He''s a little less easy to describe. He''s an alien. And not like any kind of alien that I''ve experienced before. The way that Lindsay describes him makes him so inhuman, more akin to combination of animal and machine; or as she described in my interview with her, a mix of the Xenomorph and Eva from Wall-E. Yet I pictured him with a strange sense of beauty and almost regalness. I saw this alien creature that at times made me think of an insect, at others he was quite feline, or even deer-like. But through it all there was something about him that fascinated me and grabbed my attention. Much like Cora, when we first meet Ampersand he''s not the nicest of people. He can communicate with Cora, but barks orders, comes across as threatening at times, and doesn''t seem to have any kind of interest in people beyond using them to achieve his end goal. He certainly never seemed to regard any of them as being worthy of thought or care. But when these two came together something magical happened. Cora had to grow up all of a sudden, she had to step up to responsibility and put herself in a position that would test her beyond her limits; and Ampersand, he had to learn that his initial opinions of humans were wrong, that we''re not just violent, animalistic creatures, but were worthy of his attention a,nd care. The relationship between the two of them never felt strange, and the fact that he''s so alien helped this. This isn''t a girl falling in love with a vampire or a zombie because he''s a hot boy, or even something resembling a boy. This is two beings learning to like each other from an intellectual level. They connected through their minds and personalities. Because of this the love that seemed to form between them never felt cliched or hackneyed, it felt real. Whilst they seem to form an attachment like a working relationship, bordering on friendship, there''s a scene where Cora is scared and feeling alone, the weight of everything crushing down on her, and Ampersand comes to comfort her. He sees this being that''s so alien to him, who he barely understands at time, and he sees that she''s suffering and can''t help himself from helping her. The tenderness that this alien creature shows this young woman is so genuine and earnest that that was the moment I realised that these two could fall in love. Not a physical love, driven by hormones or sexual desire, but a love for who the other is, driven by a desire to see the other happy and safe. There''s something that happens towards the end of the book where it looks like Ampersand might be revealed to be a villain, and it made my heart break. I was so hurt that this creature I''d fallen in love with alongside Cora could have been evil this whole time that when this is proven to be false I was so unbelievably happy. I could''t have dealt with that level of betrayal from him. And I''d probably never be able to engage with any of Lindsay''s work again either if that had happened as she''d have betrayed me in the worst way. The book ends with the two characters closer than ever, with an undeniable connection that''s so akin to love that I couldn''t see it any other way. These last moments of the book, with the two of them together, caring for each other made me cry. Physically cry. I''ll cry at tv and film all the time, hell, half the stuff on the internet gets me; but a book has never gotten me like this. It''s never made such a raw emotional connection with a book before. I spent much of the rest of that night and the day after thinking about this, considering why this story connected with me so much, about why I came to care about Ampersand to the point of desperately wanting to read more about him. I went back and watched the video essay Lindsay made about loving monsters to see if that might help me figure some things out. Monsters are shunned by society. They''re seen as ugly. It''s assumed that they''re threats to the way of life, that they''re here to do awful things. And whilst sometimes this is true that''s not always the case. Because monsters don''t have to represent our fears anymore, they can represent us too. They can act as stand ins for marginalised people, people who are shunned by society, who are seen as threats. I realised that I connected with Ampersand so much because I''m a monster too. At least in the eyes of some people. People like myself, and many others, others who are viewed as ''different'' and ''strange'' get told that we''re not normal. We''re told that we''re more violent, that we''re a threat to women and children, that we''re predisposed to violence, that we''ll always be alone in the world because we''re freaks. For a long while I was alone, and couldn''t help but hear those kind of things and believe them. Maybe I was a monster, maybe I was doomed to be alone forever. I never dreamed that I''d find a loving connection with someone and be happy. So when I saw this happening with Ampersand, when he and Cora began to form this friendship, which would go on to blossom into love I couldn''t help but project a little onto him. Ampersand means so much to me because I was that monster at one point. Axiom''s End became a story that meant something to me. It connected with me on a personal level that I never thought it would. The characters came to mean something important. If I could meet Ampersand in real life I would in a heartbeat. I''d love to see how beautiful he is, to see those wonderful eyes he has, to be held by him like he holds Cora, because I''ve gone and fallen in love with him and what he represents. Axiom''s End might be a story about truth, it might have stuff to say on government accountability and censorship, it might have amazing aliens and an intricate story, but to me first and foremost this book is about love. It''s about showing people that no matter how you see yourself, or how others might see you, no one is really a monster, that we''re all deserving of and capable of love. I doubt that Lindsay herself will ever read this review, but if she does I just want to say thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. This book is special. It means something. And I love it. Words can''t do my feelings on this book justice. It is everything I never knew I needed and more.