Firstly I would like to thank Titan books and Netgalley for both a digital and physical arc of this book. This is a shorter review than usual as I was tied by an Instagram character limit. The spoiler section is an addition.
“Life is common, intelligent life is not”
Axiom’s end is set in an alternate 2007, conspiracy theories and a wiki leaks style culture is high – our protagonist Cora sadly forms part of the fallout and we follow her as the unlikely pioneer of first contact with an alien race. The books was one which I became immediately caught up in, the writing was intelligent, I felt immersed in the story and the cat and mouse style in the early stages gave it a thriller feel. As Cora starts to realise the gravity of what she has been caught up in and the depth of what has come before I really felt for her. Se was a fantastic character and she was portrayed sympathetically given her age. The book gives a deep and thought provoking look at the caste system and no matter how intelligent the life is there are always those who are looked down on. Ampersands description of their society is sometimes chilling and the exploration of two unlike species trying to find commonality felt grounded.
Unfortunately the dynamic between Cora and Ampersand didn’t sit well with me which I’ll explain more in the spoiler section below.
Ultimately though I found this an exciting read which was interspersed with leaked documents to give context to the story – I found myself not wanting to put it down and if you get a chance to follow some of the internet links in the book, give it a try!
I have to now say that an otherwise excellent story was completely marred but what I felt to be a problematic relationship between Cora and Ampersand. I’ve spent a long time looking at other reviews and it seems I am alone in this and whilst I wonder if it’s just me and i perhaps read it wrong, I can’t escape that it angered me. Cora is your typical teenage girl who has lost her male role model which leads to poor life choices. Firstly it’s a loose beauty and the beast retelling which I find bizarre in the context, Cora is a teen and Ampersand is 600+ but what the real kicker for me is the feigned use of consent. It’s like “isn’t Ampersand all cool because he asks for her consent before he touches her” like he’s considerate of her feelings. But lets remember, he simply asks “do you consent” she never knows what type of touch she is consenting to and just blindly keeps saying yes and then hoping for the best. All this pales in comparison to the fact that without her consent Ampersand “fusion bonds” with her in order to keep tabs on her after the tracker he forcibly implanted in her (by holding her face down in mud) is forcibly removed by another alien he has fusion bonded with. This is an utter violation of her mind gone unchecked, it appears that the two species fusion bond differently (who would have thought) and Cora is able to “feel” Ampersand. The conclusion is harrowing for Cora in my view, she discovers that she has been blindly running into dangerous situations, ones which literally leave her cleaved almost in two, because of this fusion bond link. She can no longer think for herself as all her thoughts are consumed by her bond which she did not consent to. I personally find this sinister and this is the life that Cora now has forever.