Thursday, July 06, 2017

Sleeping Giants - Sylvain Neuvel



Sleeping Giants
The Themis Files, Book 1
Sylvain Neuvel
Del Rey

Science Fiction

As a child, Rose Franklin fell into a hole… and landed in an enormous metal hand.  The powers-that-be unearthed and pored over the hand, determining only that it was buried several thousands of years ago; and that it is made of a metal or alloy unknown to modern science.  The hand was contained in a sort of chamber, with each wall made of the same unknown metal, and covered with unknown, glowing symbols.  To avoid mass panic, those same powers-that-be kept all of this as quiet as possible.

Many years later, Rose, now a physicist, is delighted to be a part of the project that is studying the hand and the symbols.  And she’s amazed to see that, all this time later, the symbols on the walls are still glowing, even though they have no visible energy source.  It stands to reason that a hand must need an arm.  An arm must need a body.  And, with some searching, the research group led by Rose is able to find several more pieces.  It’s fairly clear that, eventually, they will be able to assemble an entire humanoid figure that stands many stories tall and is made of some apparently indestructible stuff.

The obvious questions arise.  What is this thing?  Why was it constructed?  Why was it deconstructed?  Why were the pieces buried?  And, most interesting/frightening of all:  Who did all of this, several thousand years ago, when humans were essentially inventing the wheel?  The small, assembled study has only the best, most basic scientific goals in mind.  They want to put the thing together and figure out what it does.  And, someday, who made it.

You don’t have to be much of a cynic to realize that there are lots of other people who would have much less pure motives to possessing something like this.  Rose eventually realizes that it’s potentially a weapon, but that epiphany comes a bit too late.  The story unfolds in a series of reports and interviews with various participants in and around the study of the figure.  It seems like a clunky way to tell a story, but it works beautifully here.  Each character has ample opportunity to put forth his/her viewpoints, hopes, and fears.  Regardless of their overall aims, each person comes across as very, very human.

It shouldn’t be a spoiler to say that things don’t quite go as planned in the study.  But, by that time, there’s really no going back on this project.  As a reader, I found myself second-guessing what had gone before, in ‘if only’ terms.  Even if you don’t consider yourself a ‘scifi reader,’ give this book a try.  It is, above all else, a story about people and how they deal with advances and setbacks that most of us can’t imagine.  I’m already looking forward to getting my hands on the second book.  I have to know what happens next!

Rating: 9
May 2016

ISBN# 978-1-101-88671-7 (paperback)

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