Jul 27, 2018


Book Review - Sleeping Giants, Themis Files #1 (by Sylvain Neuvel)

Title: Sleeping Giants
Series: Themis Files Series (book #1)
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Release Date: April 26th, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 320

"A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

An inventive debut in the tradition of World War Z and The Martian, told in interviews, journal entries, transcripts, and news articles, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by a quest for truth—and a fight for control of earthshaking power."

(click to read an excerpt on Barnes&Noble)

- Review -
What Made Me Read It
They had me at hidden alien artifact, a giant robot thousands of years old.

The Plot
The story starts with a little girl, Rose Franklin, taking her new bike for a spin in a South Dakota town on her eleventh birthday. She falls down a deep hole in the woods and lands in the palm of a giant turquoise glowing metal hand, inside a structure with panels of a metal no one can identify, with writings that no one can decipher.

Fast forward nearly 2 decades. Rose Franklin is now a PhD physicist placed in charge of studying the mysterious hand after an unexplained helicopter crash in Turkey leads to the discovery of a giant metal forearm of similar properties. Rose Franklin believes both pieces to be of alien origin since they pre-date human civilization (based on carbon-dating analysis), they're made from a substance only found in tiny quantities on Earth and are thought to be parts of an enormous humanoid machine buried in several other hidden locations.

A top secret shadow agency in the government led by a nameless "Interviewer" sets up a team of specialists in order to find, retrieve and assemble the rest of the alien artifacts. Rose Franklin leads the research team trying to understand the giant alien mecha. Kara Resnik (a US army helicopter pilot) and Ryan Mitchell (her co-pilot) are responsible for bringing in the pieces from around the globe and learning how to operate the assembled robot. Add in a psychopathic geneticist -  Alyssa Papantoniou - to study the right genetics that activate the helmets that control the robot, a genius French-Canadian linguist - Vincent Couture - tasked with deciphering the alien language code, and a mysterious behind-the-curtains Mr. Burns person who enjoys telling fables to make his point. 

The Good
The entire story is told by way of interviews, personal journal entries, newspaper articles, log entries, mission reports and transcripts. This dialogue type of format helps move the story along a lot faster than if it had been told in the more traditional prose format. Yet, you lose nothing in the fast pace. You get all the essential details of the plot from the dialogues alone and easily extrapolate and put together any missing pieces through hints and comments from those same dialogues.

The characters are well developed and complex despite the fact that they are barely described and given very little back story. But as they become more comfortable with the mysterious "Interviewer", we get more and more insight into their thoughts and motivations. They are all very flawed and damaged and the writer doesn't flinch with some of the catastrophic outcomes of these character's failings showing how far humans would go to achieve their goals.

The story is thrilling, intelligent and witty. It provides plenty of twists and turns and a massive cliffhanger at the end that will make you start on the next volume immediately. Along the sci-fi side of story, which tackles the mysteries of space and mythology of extraterrestrial life, there are also military and political aspects weaved in with implications not just for the main characters but for humankind as a whole. The discovery of the giant mecha is as dangerous as it is shocking, giving whoever controls it a significant military advantage, which shouldn't surprise anyone.

Final Rating
The plot is skillfully grounded in a very relatable reality with all the political and military upheaval, public perception, world crisis, and personal anguish that you'd expect to arise in a situation like this. Recommended for those who enjoy stories involving giant mecha and alien conspiracy theories.

About the Author (interviews)
Next in the series: The Waking Gods, Themis Files #2 (book review)
Next in the series: Only Human, Themis Files #3 (book review)


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