Sleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel, A review.

 

I went into Sleeping Giants with borderline excitement. I stumbled across it whilst looking for something to read and there it sat in my basket for many months before I purchased it. It arrived and I almost immediately started reading it. I read page after page and I found myself… unenthused. If I am well and truly invested in a novel I can’t put it down. I will sit and smash through it one or two sessions. Sleeping Giants, I struggled with, for reasons I aim to make apparent.

The msleeping-giantsain gripe I had was with the way the story is told. A series of audio logs, news reports and interviews with characters is a genuinely refreshing way to tell a story, but it’s the scale of the tale that makes it hard to fathom. Sleeping Giants is about, funnily enough, a sleeping giant. Some buried, giant metal hand is found and many years later some suspicious man, we assume is dressed in a black suit with an American flag pin adorned upon it, starts assembling a crack team to recover the rest of the pieces. We never find out truly who he is only that A: he’s mysterious and B: a bit of a bastard, who slowly grows fond of his team, in a distant Father way who’s watching their son score the winning touchdown at prom kind of thing. Or however sport works. Basically, the second most interesting character remains an enigma which is frustrating in the bad way. The most interesting character, dare I say, is the robot itself. Its origins hinted upon but never confirmed, and its scale and purpose bewildering to the people of Earth. Which leads me back to the gripe. The method of storytelling. We are presented with an intergalactic, teleporting, almost indestructible killer space robot, and we only get to appreciate the global and potentially universal implications of such a discovery, from such a narrow and blinkered view point. It doesn’t allow you to fully appreciate the world that Neuvel is attempting to create. This is supposedly the first of a trilogy all set in the same universe and if the next two are written in the same format I cannot see how it’ll work. You get a good idea of the direction he’s taking it in, and if it continues with interviews and audio logs you’ll have the literary equivalent of a low budget sci-fi that couldn’t afford to show all the explosions and lasers and giant robot fights. You know, the good stuff.

That being said, Sleeping Giants did pick up in the last 100 pages or so. I did become invested in one character who got me with her no nonsense bad-ass attitude, and I can’t criticise Neuvel’s prose. Regardless, I just don’t know if I’m going to pick up the sequel. I love sci-fi and Philip K Dick makes up a staple of my reading diet but I need to feel the whole world. I can build up the image but I need the foundations or I’m just pissing about in sand. Would recommend if you have a better imagination than me or enjoy reading police transcripts.

 

Ben

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