Book Review (SERIES): Noumena

Amazon Cover

Noumena Series by Lindsay Ellis

  1. Axiom’s End
  2. Truth of the Divine


The alternate history first contact adventure Axiom’s End is an extraordinary debut from Hugo finalist and video essayist Lindsay Ellis.

Truth is a human right.

It’s fall 2007. A well-timed leak has revealed that the US government might have engaged in first contact. Cora Sabino is doing everything she can to avoid the whole mess, since the force driving the controversy is her whistleblower father. Even though Cora hasn’t spoken to him in years, his celebrity has caught the attention of the press, the Internet, the paparazzi, and the government—and with him in hiding, that attention is on her. She neither knows nor cares whether her father’s leaks are a hoax, and wants nothing to do with him—until she learns just how deeply entrenched her family is in the cover-up, and that an extraterrestrial presence has been on Earth for decades.

Realizing the extent to which both she and the public have been lied to, she sets out to gather as much information as she can, and finds that the best way for her to uncover the truth is not as a whistleblower, but as an intermediary. The alien presence has been completely uncommunicative until she convinces one of them that she can act as their interpreter, becoming the first and only human vessel of communication. Their otherworldly connection will change everything she thought she knew about being human—and could unleash a force more sinister than she ever imagined.


Alternate history (never a favorite for me) but chosen by my book club as the read of the month (July 2021).

Axiom’s End was a satisfying read, and got easier to read the longer it went on. Initially the main character, Cora, is an annoying self-centered college dropout raging against how unfair her life is because of her father’s actions. She panics readily, scares easily, and just doesn’t have a good grasp on adulting as yet – still around age 20, this isn’t surprising. But it is annoying to those who are much, much past that stage … but I buckled up, because this is a REASONABLE take on a person that age whose father has been manipulating people on the public state to be an “influencer” with no other reason to be famous except for the fact he wants to be famous.

In time, she grows beyond. She never becomes the “superhuman” so many sci-fi stories create. She still makes mistakes, she still gets scared, she still can’t see the full picture, she still is lacking concepts of skepticism of society and distrust of others which someone even five years older would have developed from experience. But she grows up in one important manner. She accepts responsibility for another sentient being. And she WORKS at it. Even through pain, betrayal, and danger.

In the end, I liked her.

The character growth arc is well-done. The science-fiction aspect works well. And the greater public questions of influence, political decisions, and secrets touched on in the story made great fodder for my book club.

Amazon Cover


The human race is at a crossroads; we know that we are not alone, but details about the alien presence on Earth are still being withheld from the public. As the political climate grows more unstable, the world is forced to consider the ramifications of granting human rights to nonhuman persons. How do you define “person” in the first place?

Cora Sabino not only serves as the full-time communication intermediary between the alien entity Ampersand and his government chaperones but also shares a mysterious bond with him that is both painful and intimate in ways neither of them could have anticipated. Despite this, Ampersand is still keen on keeping secrets, even from Cora, which backfires on them both when investigative journalist Kaveh Mazandarani, a close colleague of Cora’s unscrupulous estranged father, witnesses far more of Ampersand’s machinations than anyone was meant to see.

Since Cora has no choice but to trust Kaveh, the two must work together to prove to a fearful world that intelligent, conscious beings should be considered persons, no matter how horrifying, powerful, or malicious they may seem. Making this case is hard enough when the public doesn’t know what it’s dealing with—and it will only become harder when a mysterious flash illuminates the sky, marking the arrival of an agent of chaos that will light an already-unstable world on fire.

With a voice completely her own, Lindsay Ellis deepens her realistic exploration of the reality of a planet faced with the presence of extraterrestrial intelligence, probing the essential questions of humanity and decency, and the boundaries of the human mind.

While asking the question of what constitutes a “person,” Ellis also examines what makes a monster.


I received an ARC (advance reader’s copy) for an honest review.

During the first book of the Noumena series, Axiom’s End, it took me a long time to warm up to the story and to the main character. I found her to be a self-absorbed college-age mess, which is to say, a normal 20-something person. She never developed super-human powers so often seen in science fiction. Cora remained a normal human being, overwhelmed with being the first alien interpreter in the middle of the first (acknowledged) contact.

The second book moves even further from the normal genre conventions, to slam solidly into the “literary” segment of writing, exploring what happens internally and emotionally to a human, and an alien, after injury and trauma. Buckle up for some serious PTSD exploration. It’s uncomfortable and real.

Cora’s father continues his manipulations, the world continues to twist and turn under each alien revelation, the political world and society rock and roil – preventing Cora from ever finding a “safe” place to recover. Her battle to find therapy, or some place to heal – without a job, without health insurance, without family support – will hit hard for a lot of people.

A lot of the scenes struck me as too real when comparing to reactions – on both sides of the fence – of the 2019-2021(+) COVID pandemic. Knowing how long it takes things to go from concept to publication, this book had to have been outlined, if not fully written, long before masking and riots and all that happened. Ms. Ellis is basing this story on the political situation of over a decade ago and extrapolating an alternate history within that time frame.

If you are looking for a science fiction lark, go elsewhere. If you want something to think about, to understand people suffering from PTSD, to get a glimpse of where today’s political divide sunk its roots into America, – while having aliens, wormholes, and universal translators you stick in your ear (and maybe a love triangle or polyhedron with aliens in the mix)- this will be your jam. Again, the story runs much more toward the literary than the genre end of things. It’s a great book club read.