Only Human is the third book in Sylvain Neuvel’s ‘Themis Files’ series. This is a series I have enjoyed in part due to its epistolary format but also due to its intriguing premise. The first book in the series, Sleeping Giants, introduced the reader to a scientist who discovered a giant body part beneath the earth as a child, and the second, Waking Gods, was another exciting addition to the series with a conclusion which left me desperate to find out more. As this is the third in a series I have kept my review quite vague but there may be spoilers to the first two books!
Waking Gods ended on a cliff-hanger but in this third instalment we begin with events that take place ten years later. However, the timeline does shift between the present time and the 10 year gap that has passed since that unforgettable moment where familiar characters found themselves far from home. The ‘Themis Files’ in this trilogy are shown in the form of interview transcripts, personal files and other documents which chart the extraordinary events as they unfold. As with the previous books this is something I enjoyed, as it gives the reader all the key information they need to piece together the story without too much description. I don’t generally read a lot of science fiction, but this is a series that I have found to be quite accessible. That said there is no shortage of science as there is plenty of scientific and philosophical discussion in this story alongside the giant robots that threaten the Earth…
As the title suggests, this particular instalment explores aspects of humanity, in all its complexity, both good and evil. Whilst the crew found themselves away from Earth, the home they leave behind is far from idyllic. We learn of the impact of Themis on the world, the fear and violence it has caused, and the dark presence it has left in its wake. Through their stories we get a fascinating and frightening glimpse into a darker side of humankind. That said there are also positive aspects of humanity explored, including human strength, determination and empathy, as we see humans and other life forms cross paths, and see the comparisons between them. I particularly enjoyed the development of the characters relationships through the years, the bonds between friends and colleagues, and a father and his daughter.
Only Human is an enjoyable and intriguing science fiction novel which combines an action packed plot with a thought provoking exploration of humanity through its fascinating characters. An enjoyable conclusion to the series.