Pub. Date: 21/04/2016
Publisher: Penguin UK - Michael Joseph
11-year-old Rose Franklyn was cycling near her house on her eleventh birthday when the ground disappeared beneath her. When she came to, she was in a deep pit, lying in the palm of a giant metallic hand.
Seventeen years later, Dr Franklyn is leading a top-secret scientific investigation into the bizarre artefact she had unwittingly discovered all those years ago. It is clear to Rose and her team that the hand is not only ancient but almost certainly not of this world. A search begins for the rest of this vast creation, perhaps the most perplexing puzzle humanity has ever faced.The first thing you encounter in this novel is young Rose Franklyn, who, in many ways, stays at the very heart of the novel. She falls into the open palm of a giant metallic hand one day and it forever changes her life, although she doesn't suspect so for another seventeen years. Truly there is nothing more I could say about the plot of the book without ruining some of the novel's suspense. Sleeping Giants is Mystery Sci-Fi at its very best, constantly keeping the reader on their toes and masterfully combining the world we know with the seemingly absurd. Science Fiction often stumbles over the first word of its name, either too focused on making the science work or not caring at all if it works because, hey, it's fiction and no one will care. The science in Science Fiction matters though because it is what allows a novel's plot to transcend the ordinary world. Sleeping Giants finds a great balance between showcasing its science and being fiction by having scientists and exploration at the heart of its plot. Figuring out what the mysterious hand is for both requires science and makes it fun.
The way Sleeping Giants is written is one of its main strengths, aside from its great plot. Neuvel experiments with fiction, with how one can write a linear and chronological story, and it is beautiful. What we get to read are interview transcripts of the characters, their journals, their work reports, etc., which allows Neuvel to change not only how a reader normally discovers the plot but also how a reader gets to know characters. We are hardly ever 'in the moment' with the characters but find out about things afterwards, moving between characters, mediums, countries and events at a rapid pace. And oh does it work! As a reader you are always on edge, always desperate to know more. Reading Sleeping Giants really is something else. Although arguably there is a whole host of main characters, the true narrator and protagonist is a shadowy man, working from the peripheries of the novel to make it all happen. He is fascinating and he is a mystery to seemingly everyone. Neuvel, however, manages to make a character without a name and apparently without a background one of the best characters in the book. It's hard to explain exactly how well Neuvel's approach to storytelling works because
Neuvel's writing throughout the novel is great. Switching between different characters and different mediums of writing (interviews, reports, etc.) could lead to everything and everyone sounding exactly the same and yet each character feels like an individual. Also, I couldn't help but absolutely love the variety of female characters in this novel. They are great! Neuvel makes you care for them and it is the first time in a long time that a Sci-Fi novel genuinely made me wish for the stars. The ending of Sleeping Giants is a twists readers won't see coming, a final little push to show exactly how creative Neuvel is with his story. I only just found out that Sleeping Giants is actually the first book in a series, the Themis Files, the second of which comes out in 2017. Even without knowing there is a sequel the ending is brilliant, but now Neuvel has left the reader hanging off the proverbial cliff in a great way. Sleeping Giants is a whole story, in the sense that it doesn't feel as if anything has been left out in order to make the reader read the next book, and can be read on its own. You'll probably be as desperate for the sequel as me though, after reading it.
I give this book...
Reading Sleeping Giants is an experience which I wouldn't trade for anything. Neuvel's novel not only successfully experiments with how to tell a story, it also tells one hell of a story. I will not only be rereading Sleeping Giants, I will also be counting down the minutes to the sequel. I'd recommend this to fans of Sci-Fi, Mystery and experimental writing.