In his debut novel, Sleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel brings a fresh and global perspective to the well-worn science fiction trope of giant alien robots.
When Rose Franklin is eleven, she falls into a hole while biking in the woods. She is discovered in the hole, laying in the palm of a giant metallic hand that has been resting there for thousands of years. Two decades later, Rose, now a high-ranking physicist, is charged with leading a research team to reassemble the unearthly giant and glean any knowledge they can from its advanced technology. The team races to find all of the giant’s body parts buried around the planet before the rest of the world finds out about the alien technology. Their attempts do not go unnoticed and geopolitical tensions rise quickly, bringing the world to the brink of war. As tensions rise, the people associated with the project start to question the real purpose behind the reassembling of this giant, doubting that it is just in the name of science.
Following in the footsteps of World War Z and The Martian, the story is told through transcripts of recorded conversations held between a powerful and enigmatic high-ranking government agent in charge of the operation and the scientists, government officials, and military personnel linked to the project. Also included in the narrative are the personal journal entries and mission logs of the crew. This style works out well for the story, which has one foot in the science fiction genre and one in that of the political thriller.
Neuvel blends the excitement of scientific discovery with the anxiety of geopolitical tensions seamlessly. While mostly science fiction, the apocalyptic undertones due to the threat of global, and possibly even extraterrestrial, conflict tell a story that seems more relevant than ever. The author does an excellent job at explaining the science behind the research being done in the story, which actually makes the tale even more gripping. The story relies heavily on its characters to relate the story to the audience, who watch it unfold through the interviews with the unknown government agent. While some of the more personal aspects divulged by the characters seem a little far-fetched to be discussing in these interviews, on the whole, the characters are well-fleshed out, intelligent, and wholly engaging. As the plot unravels, new characters are cycled through, all of them as colourful and interesting as the last.
Overall the book is a fascinating and fast-paced read that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. I would highly recommend for anyone looking for a smart, page-turning thriller containing a healthy dose of science fiction.
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