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Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel – Book Review (Science-Fiction)

If you are a scientist, you believe that it is good to find out how the world works; that it is good to find out what the realities are; that it is good to turn over to mankind at large the greatest possible power to control the world and to deal with it according to its lights and its values.”

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel is a hard science-fiction novel and the first in his Themis Files trilogy. I never thought I would physically sit down and read this book/series because it had been so ridiculously hyped by nearly every blogger and reviewer that I follow. Yet… here I am, reviewing it, after marathoning the fuck out of it in one to two sittings. I blame Sir Besty entirely.

Sleeping Giants begins with a young girl who stumbles into a giant hole one day while riding her bike; a birthday present from her ma and pa. While looking around curiously in this hole, she notices the tip of giant metal phalanges sticking out of the dirt with glowing blue lights. A ruckus is caused henceforth, and it shall change the very face of humanity as the world knows it.

The biggest shock for me while reading Sleeping Giants, and one that others felt similarly about, was the format. It is so peculiar and different that it automatically makes you a little uncomfortable and apprehensive yet quite curious. Humans are very curious race of beings, which is supremely evident in the contents of this book… trilogy really (thus far I’ve read the first two instalments). It breaks away from the traditional, linear mould of storytelling to express a highly-contemplative narrative in the form of interviews, periodicals, and transcripts. What this does is create a wonderfully imaginative and engaging reading experience that is so original. I was floored beyond belief that I fucking loved the format and also that it pulled me deeper and deeper into the chaos of all the shit that was going on. It’s a risqué way to write, but it works damn well for the Themis Files.

The format is the leaf that falls into a quiet pond, stirring up a ripple effect of everything else that goes on. Because the responses, reactions, choices, mistakes, relationships are discussed in an intensely intimate and personal means, the way they affect the individual reader is that much more heightened and the character depth that much more genuine and sincere.

For example, there is a romance in the story. It’s not the main focus of the narrative, but it does have a significant bearing on it later on, mostly due to how it affects the individuals involved in this romantic situation. When something works out or when something falls apart, if hits you in the gut in a way that you’d feel if you’re best friend went through a nasty break-up or got engaged. It’s personal. The same thing can be said for the way the characters grow and adapt to their surroundings and situations. It can be pleasant growth, or it can be a spiral into the blackest pits of Hell. Being able to read a first-hand account of how their choices impact them, mentally and emotionally, is absolutely riveting and irresistible.

Another ripple that we see is how the funky format influences the level of tension and suspense that drives the whole damn thing from beginning to end. Now, the story is hella fast-paced (I know, so professional, but hey, it’s apt). I mean, I began reading it during a work break and three hours had passed by before I ever realised it. It was like, “Yo, where the heck did the sun go?” The candid confessions and confidence the characters place in the reader amps up the suspense in such a subtle way that I didn’t necessarily feel it until a plot twist rose up to slap me in the face. Oh what a beautiful burn it was every single time too.

There is an intangible veil of mystery and intrigue that umbrellas the novel as we are trying to figure a bunch of shit out about the metal phalanges and, honestly speaking, it becomes the best bloody part of the whole book (I’d even say the whole series so far). Within the last one-third of the book, everything it taken to the highest penthouse floor possible. This blew my mind so much! I didn’t think it could increase its momentum, yet it does, and it maintains that momentum until the very end. Also, the epilogue fucking destroyed me. Whoa.

On a technical level, I found the inclusion of scientific facts, interpersonal relations, the mind-fuck complexities of politics, and the sheer audacity of the human arrogance to be impeccably balanced. None of these elements overshadowed the others, but worked together to enhance and complement one another, which is a difficult feat in writing a wholly inspired science-fiction story of this calibre.

Overall, Sleeping Giants is hands-down one the best first instalments to a series that I have ever read. I cannot recommend this enough to fans of hard science-fiction, fans of science-fiction involving giant metal things, and casual genre readers alike. There is a little something in this book for every kind of reader, especially the ones that find pleasure in intelligently thoughtful brews.

5 baby steps outta 5!

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