... cinematic and action-packed ... it’s also fast-paced, visual, and satisfyingly trope-y. Ellis knows how to make tropes—from protagonists befriending their alien counterparts to dogs (almost) dying to raise stakes in the first real action scene—effective without ever feeling cold or methodical. Besides being thrilling and readable, there’s real heart to the novel, and that more than anything is its sticking point. You can’t help but be invested in Cora and Ampersand’s awkward, blossoming relationship ... Despite what I found to be quite deft and graceful themes like the ones I’ve discussed here, the novel is clumsy in places ... every once in a while, my incredulity conflicted with what is otherwise a pretty emotionally real tone ... Overall, though, Axiom’s End is a delight—insightful, humane and engaging, even in its imperfections.
... an intriguing entry in the lengthy tradition of first-contact stories ... the novel goes in surprising direction ... Perhaps because Cora is young and somewhat cheeky, the novel sometimes takes on a lightly comic tone, filled with sarcasm and nerdy Easter eggs. And Ellis doesn't stint on the 2007-specific jokes ... This can make for a pleasantly breezy read, even given apocalyptically high stakes. At the same time, Ellis geeks out over every detail of the aliens' physiology, culture, history, even the structure of their language, providing an imaginative and coherent picture of alien society. At its core, Axiom's End is warm-hearted, even—very cautiously—optimistic, more Carl Sagan's Contact than War of the Worlds.
Ellis...shows her film school background...striking a good balance between cerebral and cinematic. It’s not perfect: the pacing is a little uneven—starting off quick before slowing down for a large portion of the middle and then speeding back up again toward an ending that felt a little abrupt ... and certain characters turned out to be less important than first implied. Flaws aside however, Axiom’s End is a great read that’s both entertaining and thought provoking.
... a book that initially cloaks its intellectuality in the tropes of genre, drawing readers into what appears to be the kind of story with which voracious science-fiction fans are well acquainted ... a mind-bending exploration of the human condition ... readers are made to grapple with Big Questions about the dangers of cross-species (here an erstwhile stand-in for cross-cultural) communication, and the will of humans to force our likeness onto those around us. Ellis’s prose style is compelling, though not ornamented, and her style lies not so much at the sentence level as at the level of wit ... While at times the material seems to stretch at the seams, reaching a bit too far for its extraterrestrial limbs, it’s always admirable in the attempt. For those seeking a thrill-packed and politically pertinent science fiction ride, Axiom’s End might just be exactly what you’re looking for this summer. But be warned: you may find that, like an alien implant, this novel lingers far after you’ve put it down.
... a big, heartfelt story about two disparate beings coming together in dark times. Like all good sf, Axiom’s End reflects our own society; themes ranging from empathy to colonialism are embedded within this bittersweet yet explosive alternate history.
Communication and trust are matters of life and death in Ellis’s thoughtful, fast-paced debut ... Though a too-quick ending is somewhat unsatisfying, the powerful connection that grows between Cora and Ampersand as they teach each other about their respective cultures is masterfully done. Lovers of character-focused sci-fi will find plenty to enjoy in this gripping alternate history.
Ellis doesn’t break new ground here, and her prose is uneven. The injections of quirky humor feel particularly strained. But this hits all the necessary notes for a first contact narrative, and this trope might be fresh for at least a portion of Ellis’ fan base. This is a solid, if not especially imaginative or polished, science fiction debut.