I don’t read a lot of science fiction novels but I was certainly intrigued by Sleeping Giants, the debut novel by Sylvain Neuvel. The first book in the ‘Themis Files’ series it was the Goldsboro Books ‘Book of the Month’ choice for April, so my expectations were high…
‘I got to the bottom of the hill. Then the ground disappeared from under my feet’
I was immediately hooked as soon as I’d read the opening pages. The story begins with an eleven year old girl who on her birthday leaves her home to ride her new bike. But it is a bike ride that would change her life forever. The little girl, Rose Franklyn, falls into a hole in the ground – but it was not just an ordinary hole. She falls deep into the ground and finds herself lying in the palm of a giant metal hand glowing with turquoise light. It’s a sight that leaves Rose and her rescuers astounded, and it signals the start of her remarkable story. She grows up to become Dr Rose Franklyn, a gifted scientist dedicated to finding out more about this mysterious object, an object which predates all human civilisation. Who made it? And what is its purpose?
‘But this thing…it’s different. It challenges us. It spits in the face of physics, anthropology, religion. It rewrites history. It dares us to question everything we know about ourselves…about everything.’
Sleeping Giants is written in an epistolary style and is told mainly through the form of interview transcripts between an anonymous interviewer and various scientists and personnel connected to the case. These interviews are interspersed with journal entries, reports and other documents which gradually unravel the mystery surrounding this remarkable discovery. I found this to be an effective format – the interviews provided a lot of information and alongside it the other reports show the discrepancies between what people were told and what was really happening behind the scenes. The inclusion of the personal journal entries added more emotional elements to the story as we get to learn more about the characters feelings alongside the scientific and technological elements. As the novel progresses the mystery begins to unfold as more body parts are located around the world and the scientists work to put together the pieces of the puzzle, to find out how powerful this discovery is, and what it means for mankind.
‘I’m just now realizing how powerful this thing might be. I must admit, she’s beginning to scare me.’
Alongside the novel’s fascinating premise it also contains an interesting cast of characters. It was fascinating to see how Rose deals with the discovery, how it has affected her life and her attitude towards the world. There are also the complex relationships between the other scientists and pilots and how their feelings towards the project, and each other, change throughout. The most intriguing of all for me was the anonymous interviewer, a character whose name is not revealed but seems to have a lot of knowledge and power. This added to the mysterious element of the story and left me eager to find out more.
‘Whatever god you believe in can’t just be about humans anymore. He, or she, has to be a god for the whole universe.’
Sleeping Giants is a brilliant debut. It is an ambitious, imaginative science fiction story and I am certainly interested to find out what happens next in the series.