Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Read: Nov. 2017
I read Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods back-to-back and they are quite unlike anything I’ve read before – granted, I don’t read very much sci-fi. I saw these two popping up on my newsfeed throughout the year, but the synopsis sounded so weird I immediately passed over them. But I decided to give them a try when I saw them nominated in the Goodreads Choice Awards.
I can’t remember if the time period in which the books take place is ever stated, but I think it’s pretty safe to assume they occur around modern day. The story starts when young Rose Franklin falls off her bike in the middle of the woods and finds herself in the palm of a giant metal hand at the bottom of a glowing hole. Fast-forward to the future and Rose is now a doctor of physics and is recruited to solve the mystery of the hand she fell into as a child.
It turns out the hand is just one piece of a giant robot that predates technology by ~6000 years. Sleeping Giants raises some really interesting questions about extraterrestrials and how small it makes you feel to think there may be other lifeforms far more advanced than you, that have presumably visited your planet in the past and could theoretically return at any time. Especially when that species in the owner of a 200-foot tall killer robot and could conceivably destroy your entire planet if they so desired. I think humans are pretty proud of our intelligence, so it is a humbling thought to think of what it would be like to suddenly realize that you’re not only not alone in the universe, but that you are not the most intelligent life form in the universe either.
I rated both books 3 stars, but I think I liked Sleeping Giants a bit better. The plot felt like it had a bit more direction, whereas in Waking Gods, I really had no clue wtf was happening or where the story was going.
I didn’t think I was going to like the format of the series, which is told entirely through a bunch of interviews, news articles, and journal entries known as the Themis Files, but actually the format really worked for me. Most of the interviews are conducted by a nameless agent who has put together a team of scientists and military personnel to scour the globe for all the robot pieces, study them, and learn how they work. I really liked the team, particularly Kara and Vincent, and I liked that the story spent a lot of time on their personal relationships as well.
Waking Gods opens with the appearance of an unknown robot in the middle of central London. The team has learned a little bit about how to pilot Themis (the name of their robot), but still know very little about where she came from. Waking Gods looks at some really interesting moral issues as well and is a fast-paced apocalyptic novel about a robot invasion, but I found it slightly less compelling than Sleeping Giants. They were both quite good, but I’ve reached the point now where I really need some answers! We did get some insight into the aliens motivation towards the end of the book, but I need to know more!! I think that is part of the genius of the series though. In the scenario of a hostile robot invasion, you probably wouldn’t get a lot of answers and the speculation is what makes the story so compelling.
It really is a hard-to-put down series and I would recommend for sci-fi fans. I’m just not really the biggest sci-fi fan and I preferred some of the other sci-fi books I read this year over the Themis Files. Notably I loved Dark Matter, which is extremely compelling and science-y and Marie Lu’s Warcross, which is arguably a much lighter version of science fiction.