Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (Themis Files #1)

sleeping giantsSleeping 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.


12 Responses to “Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (Themis Files #1)”

  1. jessicabookworm

    I do like the sound of a combination of ancient history, myth and possible alien conspiracies. I also don’t always like it when they compare books, while it can help me discovers new authors it can also raise my expectations too high! I am currently reading The Martian by Andy Weir, and loving it so far 😀

  2. Tammy

    Glad you liked this, it’s coming up soon on my pile. I actually love interview style narratives so now I’m really looking forward to this:-D

    • @lynnsbooks

      I really like this style – it seems to be dividing people a little bit but I just found it very entertaining tbh and I was just so curious to find out what on earth was going on!
      Lynn 😀

  3. jenclair

    My review is scheduled for tomorrow. It kept me interested, and I liked the way the story was told through interviews, etc., but for some reason I couldn’t “suspend disbelief.” :0

    • @lynnsbooks

      Aww, that’s a shame but I can see why. I do wish that I’d gone into this one with a bit more background. As it is I think I probably missed a few references in the earlier chapters but apart from that I did find this very entertaining. It certainly doesn’t answer any questions thoroughly at this point but there’s more to come yet so there’s plenty of chance.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I just finished reading this! I had a fantastic time with it, but I have to confess I probably didn’t like it as much as I expected. I think the format limits the story greatly, even though I love epistolary novels and the book’s concept is amazing. I may have to think on it more before I tackle my own review.

    • @lynnsbooks

      It just really gripped me to be honest. I do wish that I’d been a bit forewarned before going in as I hadn’t quite realised that the whole story would be told in this style so I probably overlooked things from the earlier chapters – particularly given that most of the interviews usually had some sort of link to other entries. Overall I thought it was very entertaining. Probably had a couple of things that weren’t really solved for me by the end but I guess there’s more to come.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Carmen

    I have scheduled my reading of this book for this month. I hope to enjoy it as much as you did.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I thought it was very entertaining and quite clever. I do like this style of book though but I can see that maybe it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
      Lynn 😀

  6. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Sounds more than intriguing… If I’d read about a book written as a collection of log entries and interviews before reading “Illuminae” I would not have taken great interest in this, but now I know that this peculiar writing style can be just a fascinating and engrossing as a more “conventionally” written novel.
    I’m marking this down for future reading, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I really enjoyed it but I like this style – Dracula was all diary entries and Sarah Lotz’s Three was emails/newspaper clippings, etc. I think it’s really cleverly done and it’s an entertaining story with all the intrigue and conspiracies running around.
      Lynn 😀

  7. April: My Month in Review | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel […]

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