At the Edge of the Universe
Shaun David Hutchinson
how I feel about this book:
This is a book about being human when the world around you is ending.
There is a lot I really liked about this book. Shaun David Hutchinson is consistently good at making you feel the emotions of a piece, get caught up in the story: I was stressed and desperate to finish. I loved the strong prevalence of side characters. I think side character conflicts are an excellent addition to any book and are often sadly neglected. He’s also very good at dangling a mystery but giving it enough of a solid ending to be satisfying: The ending of this book felt like exhaling.
That being said, I feel like Hutchinson has fallen into a very clear formula, and this is just not as good an example of that formula. We Are the Ants, The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, and to some degree The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza all fall into a similar narrative: the apocalypse is threatened, the main character is depressed and generally not nice to other people, [and it turns out to be a metaphor for mental illness somehow]. I don’t think that’s actually a bad thing. It’s a good formula. It’s clearly working for him. I just think this book does very little with that formula compared to his others (especially The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza rip I know it’s unpopular but it’s his best book).
The middle of this could have been edited far better: this is a 500-page book, and I could really feel the lag around the middle. A lot of the middle is filled with side character conflict. I liked the blend of stories: Calvin’s story, specifically, was very good. I did not think most of these side characters had their arcs resolved in a meaningful way.
Lua’s character arc, or rather lack of it, also somewhat bothered me. He’s meant to be flawed but likable, and at some points he comes off this way. Her other actions include: consistently blowing up at friends, telling Ozzie “you’re mine” in a conversation I thought was DEEPLY uncomfortable, and way more relevantly, throwing a glass bottle at a significant other (it’s implied this is not an anomalous event). If any of these were meaningfully criticized I would not be bothered but as it is, it’s just like one of these characters is casually participating in domestic abuse.
I think the ending of this bothered me on a few levels, honestly. Though some reviewer friends of mine who felt it was a cop-out, I like the actual ending: I just thought it came too quickly.
I do think Shaun David Hutchinson is a very talented author and very good at drawing readers into a story: I also like that he addresses topics from his past in such a good way. But this just isn’t all that satisfying to me as a full narrative.
TW for statutory rape, child abuse, domestic abuse.