Axiom’s End (2020) – Lindsay Ellis

Title:Axiom’s End
Author:Lindsay Ellis
Publisher/s:Titan Books/Jonathan Ball Publishers
Date of publication:2020
Star Rating:⭐⭐⭐
Disclaimer:Jonathan Ball Publishers kindly sent me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

“Truth is a human right”

It’s 2007 and Cora Sabino is the young protagonist in Axiom’s End, a début science fiction novel that is both a ‘first contact’ for Millenials and also a bit of a nod to the nostalgia of the science fiction of the past. Much like any serial novel, I didn’t want to put it down because it has the benefit of a thrilling beginning. A beginning that starts with a plethora of back story and intrigue, and it is this beginning that keeps you reading, despite the rather slow middle, and slightly underwhelming conclusion. It’s a good thing that Lindsay Ellis’ novel has a sequel.

Before I continue to digress let’s start at the beginning, which is usually where one starts. Our protagonist’s father, Nils Ortega is a government whistle-blower and conspiracy theorist. For years he has been claiming that the US government is not only aware that there is life beyond Earth, but is keeping it a secret from their country and the rest of the world. Nils was never the best father, and Cora wants nothing to do with him, and even though she’s not exactly happy working a dead-end job, and living at home with her mother, and two younger siblings, it will do for now.

Cora leaves work early one day after a series of explosions rock the city. She arrives home to find her aunt Luciana hoping to discuss Nils’ latest blog post and to warn the family that their connection to him might prove dangerous. Before Cora can even lie about not having spoken to Nils in four years, her entire family is kidnapped and she is left in the company of (and on the run with) an extraterrestrial alien the CIA and military have nicknamed Ampersand.

Separated from her family, Cora is injected with a device that allows her to understand Ampersand, an alien creature described as:

“firmly inhuman, with a shell that shone silvery white…Its body leaned forward like a raptor, despite the lack of anything behind it like a tail…with long arms curled in front of it like a praying mantis…an oblong head like a dragon…a sort of crest that jutted out from the back of its head…”

It doesn’t take long though before she manages to convince Ampersand that he has no reason to be afraid of the human race, whom he refers to as “billions of flesh-eating aliens”. With her family in custody, and her aunt begging her to bring Ampersand in, Cora, makes a deal with the government that will quench the US’ thirst for knowledge, and in turn, will keep her family from having their memories erased – which the government is often wont to do.

Ampersand and Cora arrive at an underground bunker reminiscent of the War Room in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, and for the next few weeks, this is where they will remain, and where they will be interrogated by an assortment of different scientists and military men. They soon realize that Ampersand is not the only alien in custody and that more of his fellow aliens have been trapped underground with humans that have no way of understanding their language. Until now…

The more time that Cora spends with the aliens, the less inclined she becomes to help what the government officials refer to as ROSA (Refugee Organisational and Settlement Agency). Cora can’t help but feel that ROSA has ulterior motives, even though her beloved aunt Luciana is affiliated with them.

Then there’s the mysterious genome they have locked away in the bunker, and the premature death of one of the aliens that ROSA had kept imprisoned. More and more fingers (and talons) are being pointed at the human race not being as hospitable as they would make themselves out to be.

When the current president resigns after claims that he knew all about Ampersand surfaces, Cora’s position becomes desperate. She has already started questioning her loyalty to ROSA, and to Luciana, and it seems, to her entire family, who are relying on her to do her job but are also very possibly connected to the cover-up and death of Ampersand’s connections. At the same time, the alien creature she is learning to understand in more ways than just through language may also have confessed to abducting human beings for hundreds of years – leaving Cora’s sense of loyalty stretched.

Lindsay Ellis’ novel has a lot of potential with its plot but lacks in its character growth, and even though the mysterious Nils Ortega’s role is not adequately explained in this reviewer’s humble opinion, there are many moments of redemption. The relationship between Cora and Ampersand alone is worth the 460 odd pages, and a sequel, Truth of the Divine, was just published this month, so we’ll have to get our hands on that pretty soon.

Axiom’s End is a good novel. It’s not a great novel, and there is definitely space for growth and an expansion of the universe that Ellis has created, but the witty dialogue, nostalgia, and pop culture references make it a fun ode to the science fiction paperbacks that we find buried in hidden book stores, and in the dusty attics of great-grandparents.

Leave a Comment