Truth is a human right.
For a book that touted this statement periodically through the novel and even presented it as a main theme by introducing it within its marketing, Lindsay Ellis’ Axiom’s End really didn’t have a whole hell of a lot to do with truth being a human right. That said, I actually really liked it? What’s terrible is that I actually found my enjoyment quite surprising considering how difficult I found this book to get into at first–dull girl’s boring life is only not so dull because apparently, her daddy’s some sort of Snowden but only because the government is lying about aliens visiting us–and how much I kind of detested Cora in the beginning.
But, I had to read it because I love Lindsay Ellis’ video essays and so the bright side is that it gets better!
The absolute best thing about Axiom’s End was the main alien character, Ampersand. He, unquestionably, carried the entire novel. In fact, he carried it so much so that the actual main character, Cora, could have been replaced with literally anyone–which considering she was a college drop out would have been nice–and I would not have even noticed. This may be why there was a certain point in the novel where I was genuinely rooting for her death but we’ll get into that later.
Ah, but oh my gosh, Ampersand is so brilliant.
I just loved him so much. For a great many reasons, I adored this character. I think the piece that it really came down to is his intellect. And Ellis actually did a superb job of portraying it. He was an exceptionally logical and intelligent creature who’d thrown himself into a world of unknowns in order to save…something that had crash-landed and was stuck on Earth for…reasons.
Okay, so his motivation was great until it wasn’t. And I think, in its own way, the act of turning this into a mild love story kind of rendered Ampersands initial purpose…pointless. That said, I really didn’t mind at all? It kind of mirrors real life, in a way.
Okay, so I don’t actually hate Cora.
She grows on you. I’ll be fair and say that I really didn’t care for her at first, but she’s a genuinely wonderful set of eyes through which to experience this world and the events of it. After we get past how dreary her life is without aliens, she becomes interesting. I loved reading her point of view, ironically enough, and I found her to be incredibly real. I was even incredibly fond of her motivations.
I loved her relationship with Ampersand, watching the tentative alliance turn to genuine trust and friendship. They were great together and genuinely did make an incredible book together. The slow burn of their development was an impressive choice on Ellis’ part and, quite frankly, next to Ampersand’s shining personality was the second-best thing about this entire novel. She brought out the emotion in his fact-and-logic-driven exterior.
That ending, though.
Okay, the way Ellis decided to end her debut wasn’t bad. I didn’t love it, but I get why she chose it and I imagine the majority of readers will prefer it to the ending that I wanted. But I also just think that the ending I spent about the last 20% of the novel hoping for would have been way better, even if I’m fairly certain a lot of people would have hated it.
Honestly? Their loss.
And mine, too. Apparently.
But, the ending I truly think this novel needed was…Cora’s death.
I know, I know…wouldn’t that just make the entire journey seem pointless? To which I say, sure. But it also makes it beautifully tragic. Especially after Ampersand gives up nearly everything trying to save her. Also, there’s something ironic in this idea that he wouldn’t allow her to kill Obelus because of his fusion bond with him and then ends up losing her after having created that bond. I just love this idea so much.
So much would have been better if Cora had died in Ampersand’s arms and he had been left alone with Obelus and his failures.
And the fact that Ellis instead chose to end her novel safely, open-ended with Cora and Ampersand sort of just beginning their now shared lives together was so boring. I know it’s a debut, but take a risk!
So, Axiom’s End could have been amazing. And, at times, it truly seemed like it was going there. Ultimately, though, I think Ellis’ novel ended up being a whole lot of excitement and brilliance…painfully sandwiched between dull beginning and boring ending. Did I kind of love it? Yeah. Does it need a different ending? Yes, please.