“Sleeping Giants” by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel

There are no spoilers in this review. 

First of all, I love this book cover! I love the turquoise sidebars, they really catch your eye when you're scanning over a hundred tiny thumbnail images on Amazon. I also love the font. And I love how the design of the covers for the two sequels fit seamlessly with the design of this cover. I love this cover so much I looked up who the designer was. His name is Charles Brock and unsurprisingly he has done a lot of other great covers as well. 

As far as the book itself goes, I will say that I enjoyed it, but didn't love it. It was an interesting concept, but the writing quality just wasn't really there for me. This was another first contact story, done in an epistolary format, in which the entire book is presented through a series of documents. About a year or two ago I read Robopocalypse, which also used this approach. I thought it was done very effectively in that book, lending a "found footage" feel to the story that was entertaining. However, in this case, it didn't work as well. 

Most of the documents were government reports made by an unnamed person working in some shadowy capacity to explore a massive metal hand found buried in the earth near where a young girl accidentally rides her bicycle into the huge hole in which it appears. The girl survives the fall and, in a strange turn of events, two decades later becomes the lead scientist charged with trying to understand what it is. Other characters are pulled in here and there, but eventually, it turns out the secret government operative guy is the real protagonist, not the female scientist. There was a switch in focus from the scientist to other characters which I didn't like because the author had done a good job of developing the scientist's character and not much with the other characters.

The high-level plot was interesting enough, but I felt the author could stand to take some writing tips from Mr. VanderMeer, particularly on how to do settings. Many descriptions of places were very superficial and generic and I didn't feel immersed in scenes like I did in Annihilation. The dialog was effective though, snarky in the style of The Martian. But like I mentioned earlier, I didn't really care about any of the characters outside of the first one all that much. I felt as though the government document-style format served as a crutch, as a means of escaping some of the more difficult aspects of writing a really good story. 

Also, there was one core technical detail that vastly exceeded my threshold for suspension of disbelief, and it kicked me out of the story mentally into "that's totally unrealistic" mode. I never really recovered from that and wound up not being nearly as engaged in the second half of the book as I was in the first half. While there was some interesting action in the middle of the book, the ending was unfortunately even more anticlimactic than in Annihilation

In the end, it was a solid three stars and I'm glad to have read it, but frankly I'm a bit surprised it's done as well as it has (over 700 reviews on Amazon!). Personally, I think it's the cover. 🙂

 

Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel

“Sleeping Giants” by Sylvain Neuvel

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