The novel “Sleeping Giants” by Sylvain Neuvel was published for the first time in 2016. It’s the first book in the Themis Files trilogy.
Rose Franklin just got a bike as a present for her 11th birthday. She goes for a test drive when the ground collapses beneath her. She’s rescued but the strangest thing about the event happens when the girl sees a photo in which she’s portrayed at the bottom of the hole, on the palm of a gigantic hand.
Seventeen years after the incident, Rose Franklin has become a physicist and is hired to lead a top-secret team that recovered the gigantic hand and is looking for the other parts of a metallic body. The examinations indicate that it’s a robot built by an advanced civilization some millennia earlier.
“Sleeping Giants” is told in an unusual style based on reports, interviews, and transcripts of conversations. This means that events are told afterward and not shown. That’s a key feature because it marks a certain type of tone not everyone likes. For some readers, this type of storytelling negatively affects the story’s emotional side. In this novel, this choice also leads to a certain presence of infodump regarding the technical-scientific elements connected to the robot which in various cases slow down the pace.
The story concerns the progressive discovery of the various parts of a giant metal robot abandoned around the world in the distant past. The mystery concerns its origin and characteristics with the possibility that it will still work if it gets reassembled. The investigation into the possibility to make it work and controlling it begins quickly, while the secret project is looking for its pieces.
The interviews with Rose Franklin’s team members and other people involved in the research project for the robot parts are conducted by a character who is in some ways the real protagonist of the novel. The interviewer remains mysterious and for this reason, he’s the important character that the reader learns the least about. He claims to be just a spectator but his actions show remarkable abilities to manipulate other people, including authorities at the highest levels.
The readers who appreciate the style adopted by Sylvain Neuvel can enjoy a story in which there are constant twists and turns connected to the robot and at the same time, the consequences of the project are told. The search for the various parts of the robot is conducted in secret but not all the expeditions around the world go unnoticed.
Being able to use a giant robot that seems very powerful, much more than any weapon developed on Earth, can shift the balance of power at a global level, and that leads to political but also ethical and moral assessments. Several characters offer food for thought regarding the cost of the project in terms of human lives.
The ending of “Sleeping Giants” is a huge twist that leaves new questions whose answers will presumably come in the sequels. The novel is clearly the first part of a bigger story that needs to be read completely. This makes it difficult to pass judgment on a book that only tells the beginning of that story. It’s a story full of events that are often surprising even for the protagonists and more twists can be expected in its sequels. Also thinking about the ethical and moral considerations included in the story, the Themis Files trilogy can be intriguing if you appreciate the style chosen by Sylvain Neuvel.