Review: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
Publisher: Del Rey
When Dr. Rose Franklin was a child she fell into a hole and found a large metal hand. This would influence the rest of her life and lead her into a career in the scientific field. This also lead her back to the giant hand she found as a child. Heading a secret government team she is tasked to find the other parts of what might just be a gigantic robot, apparently buried all around the world. Her movement and progress is tracked by a nameless figure who is constantly recording everything said in the matter. The gathering of body parts ends up being more difficult to perform and harder to keep secret than they first imagined and the method they choose devastates several inhabited areas, causing other nations to take notice.
At the same time the team is trying to figure out how to control the giant machine, that appears to be some form of weapon, and also deciphering the language associated with it. As outer forces try to control the project, among others the American government, the team is also plagued by inner turmoil, jealousy as well as betrayal and as the nameless leader tries to keep control of the situation it seems as if it is all heading towards certain doom.
There are many interesting aspects to Sleeping Giants, both in the way the story is told, but also the content. As mentioned the story moves forward through a series of interviews held by a nameless person. It is through this person’s questions as well as the odd military report and diary entry that the reader is let into the minds of the characters. Just like earlier authors like Samuel Richardson (Pamela) and Bram Stoker (Dracula) Neuvel adds a fair amount of credibility to the tale, as well as quick pace to the events as it excludes pondering as well as unnecessary background stories.
Neuvel’s characters are all at first glance sympathetic with a common goal to delve into the mystery of the robotic pieces, but as it all develops it becomes clearer that they are all conniving, egotistical, underhanded, in short; human. As they strive understand what they are dealing with and are being pushed or pulled from various angles they risk losing sight of the true goal.
Sleeping Giants manages to be an original Science-Fiction story and that is quite unusual today. It is both philosophical, historical and political in the same vein as Kornbluth and Pohl’s Space Merchants, exciting and at the same time with a subtle warning about the here and now.
The novel is classified as the first installment of a series called the Themis Files and if this is what the reader will be treated to in the premier book, then we are all in for a treat.