Review | Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

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Giant robots? Check

Aliens? Check

International conflict and clandestine military operations? Check

Sylvain Neuvel’s novel follows a secret military operation to uncover mysterious pieces of a device. Told in interview transcriptions, the story records a search to find the pieces of and assemble a large mysterious statute that seems to expel large quantities of electricity and nuclear energy. The interviews span a number of persons working on the project including pilots, scientists, the director of the NSA, and are all hosted by an unnamed man masterminding the work.

The characters are interesting, though the format means they are very distant. There is some development, but also a sense of superficiality. While I wanted to like them, it was hard to do so, especially when the main foci are fairly closed off and abrasive. They grow more confidential during the interviews, perhaps uncommonly so, all things considered, but overall some is left wanting.

The plot is fast-paced. It follows the creation of the clandestine operation, many things going awry, and its initial conclusion. The story is a bit truncated. You don’t see the characters in action often. You see the fallout of things that have happened instead. This was sometimes done well, particularly during the aftermath and recounting of some major events. The characters’ immediate reactions are ignored in lieu of a bit more reflective recounting. This was interesting to read about.

The story also skips around quite a bit. This can be a bit disconcerting when you consider that there isn’t a timestamp on any of the transcripts. It could be a bit hard to follow, but did quicken the reading experience.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the story was the complexity of the mastermind’s thoughts. While you didn’t see it at first, there’s a lot that comes together in an “ah-ha” moment towards the end. Some of the story was a bit done before, but that was engaging.

This won’t be my favorite story of the year, but it’s an engaging, fast read.

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