A Review of Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis
Okay, wow. That was weird.
In the beginning, we, the readers, are given the impression that Axiom’s End is a novel which primarily concerns government conspiracies. We are introduced to Nils Ortega, a Julian Assange figure, and the trope of press statements, leaked documents, and interview segments scattered throughout the novel, revolving around Nils, with his signature catchphrase “Truth is a Human Right.” But the story quickly comes to revolve around Nils’ daughter Cora, a college dropout and former linguistics student.
Yes, there is a government conspiracy centered around a group of aliens called the “Fremda” group, whose existence has long been covered up. Nils, of course, leaks the information to the public with various implications including falling stock prices (author Lindsay Ellis begins each of the four parts of the novel with Dow Jones and NASDAQ averages- those numbers fall as the situation gets more and more out of hand) and eventually the disconcerting resignation of George W. Bush and commencement of a Cheney Presidency. And yes, the CIA kidnaps Cora’s mother and siblings and tries to use them as leverage.
Behind the lies and secrets and untruths and betrayals and wrongdoing of various agencies, both human and other, however, are the more personal lies and secrets, untruths, betrayals, and wrongdoing of friends and family members. Axiom’s End, especially as it manifests itself as a story about Ampersand (you’ll find out) and Cora, is really about the difficulties and mysteries of the bonds between individuals.
The story is action-packed and compelling, although sometimes it is hard to understand why Cora makes some of the decisions she makes, at least until the big reveal at the end when this is explained, to a point. Nils ends up being more of a minor character, as well as being more shallow than we expected (although his release of the “Fremda memo” is somewhat necessary as an inciting incident). In the end there is something empty and unfinished about Axiom’s End. In her Acknowledgements section the author thanks various people for helping the novel “find its form over the years,” and while I'm sure it’s true of every novel, this one feels like it could have been several other things at various points and almost was and almost, indeed, is. In any case, what it is, is an interesting outcome and Lindsay Ellis seems like an author with a lot of potential.
Other helpful reviews:
By Max Miller Review: Axiom's End by Lindsay Ellis - Columbia Journal
By Carolyn Percy Review: Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis | The Nerd Daily
Michael Pittard’s interview of Lindsay Ellis A New Kind of Nostalgia in Lindsay Ellis’s “Axiom’s End” – Chicago Review of Books (chireviewofbooks.com)