Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (Themis Files #1)
Sleeping Giants is the first book in the Themis Files written by Sylvain Neuvel. To be honest when I first picked up this book I don’t think I really had much idea of what it was about but I was undoubtedly drawn to the ‘World War Z, and The Martian’ comparisons. To be honest whilst I’m not overly fond of comparisons in a strangely perverse way I find myself drawn to them nonetheless! In fact if I was going to be even more perverse I could make my own comparison in which I would be more inclined to compare this to War of the Worlds, Flight of the Navigator and Pacific Rim all meet the X-Files. And yet, at the same time this story completely stands on it’s own two gigantic robotic feet!. To be clear – it’s only similar to those things in that an iron giant takes centre stage and government conspiracies and secret agencies are running amok. Otherwise this is very original and equally enjoyable.
We begin with a young girl called Rose who goes missing whilst riding her bike in the nearby forest. When Rose is eventually found she appears to be cradled within a large metal hand at the bottom of a pit. And so begins the mystery surrounding this ancient artefact that seems to predate anything found previously. On top of that, the hand is only the first body part to be found. Various other pieces seem to be scattered throughout the world just waiting to be uncovered.
I found this really fascinating. At first I thought that the style wasn’t going to be for me and yet that was clearly a very fleeting thought as in fairly short order I found myself speeding through this and I think this was due to the odd combination of the rather clinical type feel of part of the narrative style and my overwhelming curiosity about what exactly this uncovered metal/robot woman actually was! Why were all the pieces scattered and hidden and more to the point – who hid them? I confess that my mind was racing. On one hand I desperately wanted everything to be found and the mystery solved whilst in the next I was kind of thinking how do you know these parts weren’t scattered and hidden for a very good reason!
The story is actually told in the form of recorded interviews and log style entries. I mentioned the word ‘clinical’ above and to explain myself further in that respect that’s because the interview style – or actually, no, the interviewer, is very cold – at least upon first impressions. We know very little about the interviewer, no name or even who he is actually working for and yet he seems to be micro managing this whole venture and manipulating people and undertaking other endeavours behind the scenes all at the same time. He’s not particularly an endearing type of character. He weighs up the numbers and odds and if a couple of hundred people just so happen to lose their lives as the result of his latest endeavour in the name of progress then so be it. In fact, I confess that at the start of the story I thought the interviews were being undertaken by a form of artificial intelligence!
The characters are Rose, the young girl who opens the story. Now grown up Rose has become a physicist and in a strange fluke finds herself in the small team of characters working to uncover the mystery of the metal woman. We have a helicopter pilot called Kara. A bit of an anti-social, anti authority prickly type but the best pilot for the mission and her co-pilot Ryan, who has a slight obsession with Kara. I really enjoyed reading about Kara in fact I found her interactions with the cool and calm interviewer my favourite sections and as the story developed their dialogue became very entertaining. Vincent is a linguist from Canada, super intelligent and not a little bit arrogant!
I’m not going to go too much into the plot. This is a story of discovery, not just of a mysterious artefact and what it actually is, but a slow dawning of the benefits of working together.
I really enjoyed the conspiracy aspects, I thought the interview style was really clever as it allows the author to jump to the relevant sections easily and cut to the chase. It’s certainly got a good pace and I felt that by the conclusion I’d really become attached to a couple of the characters – Kara easily enough and the actual interviewer – less easy to see I think but I just found him oddly amusing.
To be honest I didn’t have any criticisms. Well, I suppose the story doesn’t really end on a note of completion (but this does appear to be the first in the series) and I had one niggle (that I won’t mention because it’s quite possibly something I overlooked!)
An entertaining and fast paced story. If you enjoy this type of narrative style, you have a naturally curious nature, you like a story that combines ancient history and myth with potentially alien conspiracy theories all surrounded with never before heard of or named Government departments then give this a shot.
I received a copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.