Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis

Axiom’s End is a novel about alien first contact happening in 2007, and what happens when one college dropout with a celebrity whistleblower father finds herself tied up in it. Cora Sabino’s life feels like it is going nowhere, even literally as her car breaks down, and she can’t even avoid hearing about her estranged father, who is headline news after leaking a government memo about aliens. It starts to become apparent that her family have been tied up in alien presence for decades, but then suddenly Cora must make a decision to attempt to save herself and her family: become and interpreter for an alien who recently came to Earth. As she uses her position to try and find out the truth, it becomes apparent that there’s a lot at stake, and that really understanding each other may not be possible for different species.

I don’t usually read sci-fi, but I’ve heard of Ellis from YouTube and the premise focusing on truth and cover-ups sounded interesting so I gave it a go, and found the story gripping and enjoyable. The connection between Cora and Ampersand, the alien she becomes interpreter for, has an interesting complexity, particularly the ways in which trauma affects them and how much they must accept that they don’t understand where each other is coming from. I didn’t quite engage with all the alien worldbuilding (why I don’t tend to read sci-fi in general), but I could still enjoy the plot even when I’d forgotten the meaning behind some of the extraterrestrial words and concepts. The 2000s setting felt quirky, and on reflection makes me wonder if in future books (as I think this is the first in a proposed series) the alternate history elements will become more foregrounded.

The story really drew me into this book about truth, interpretation, and the attempt to understand others. Maybe those who read a lot of sci-fi will find this more standard fare, but as someone who doesn’t, it was an enjoyably accessible novel, with unresolved elements that suggest towards sequels.