Sleeping Giants – Sylvain Neuvel
A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.
Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.
But some can never stop searching for answers.
Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. Along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?
Review: Sleeping Giants was one of my most-anticipated book releases of 2016. It checks a lot of bookish boxes for me. It has a nontraditional format, a bizarre synopsis, and a twisty plot. I was pretty sure I’d love it. I bought it right after it came out. Then it sat unread on my shelf. For nearly a year. Yeah. I’m totally on top of my life and do everything in a timely manner.
I finally got around to reading it, and it lived up to my expectations.
The story is told through conversations between a team of scientists and a mysterious interviewer. The scientists have discovered giant robot-like body parts buried all over the globe. At first, they don’t know what the parts are made of, why they exist, or who made them. As the scientists start assembling body parts, they learn that the robot may be alien technology. The robot may also be the deadliest weapon Earth has ever seen. The way we think about ourselves and the universe will never be the same.
“What I am is very much a function of what I am not. If the "other" is the Muslim world, then I am the Judeo-Christian world. If the other is from thousands of light-years away, I am simply human. Redefine alterity and you can erase boundaries.” – Sleeping Giants
Even though this book is recommended for fans of science fiction and comic books, you don’t have to like either to appreciate this story. Sleeping Giants explores some of the ethical concerns that scientists face. If the robot has the power to destroy the planet, should they really keep working on it? How will this discovery change politics and the balance of power in the world? The characters all have an inner struggle between their personal desire to uncover the robot’s secrets and the knowledge that building a superweapon isn’t a good idea.
“I was smart enough to know it was wrong, but not brave enough to stop them.” – Sleeping Giants
The plot is full of twists and conspiracy theories. There were a few places where I stopped reading and went, Wait, did that really just happen? This is the type of novel that keeps you flipping pages to find out what crazy thing happens next. If you like plot-driven stories, then this is the book for you. The plot sucks you in and lets you escape from the real world for a few hours.
My only big issue with the book is the interview format. Sometimes it works really well, and sometimes it doesn’t. It works well for developing themes because the characters have time to reflect on their experiences and draw conclusions. However, I never felt truly invested in the characters because I only got to know them through dialogue. I never got to see them interact with each other in real time. The characters feel shallow. Most of them are stereotypical badass comic-book-style people. (Tough girl with a troubled past who is so badass that she can singlehandedly take on a whole submarine full of trained military people? Yeah, I’ve seen this character before. In every thriller novel ever.)
There are also a few parts of the story that I think would have been better if they’d been written in scene instead of dialogue. The book has action, but it’s not really “action” because it’s just a character describing an incident after it happens. The reader never feels like he/she is in the middle of an event. Having something described to you isn’t the same as seeing it. The format causes the plot to lose tension at some points.
Finally—this is just personal preference—but I like the beginning of the story more than the end. The end of the book becomes very focused on politics. I read the news every night. I’ve written more than enough strongly worded emails to my government representatives. I get a lot of real-life politics in my life. This book reminded me why I avoid political thrillers. Just . . . no more politics, please.
So, will I read the next book in the series? Definitely. It may take me years to get to it, but I will read it. Sleeping Giants is weird, thematically complex, and a lot of fun.
“Generally speaking, people tend not to question what they’ve been told was true. Scientists are no different; they’ve just been told a lot more things.” – Sleeping Giants