Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

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Sleeping Giants is the first book in, I believe, a trilogy (at least there are now three books written) and is very good debut from new author Sylvain Neuvel. The setting is more or less present day Earth and parts of a huge alien robot, deeply buried for over three thousand years, are beginning to surface, triggered by human technology reaching a detectable tipping point.

The concept is bold and interesting and the writing fluid making this a generally easy, and fast read. There were, however, a number of elements that had not, in my opinion, been carefully enough thought through. Why would anyone think it a good idea to investigate unknown alien technology in bunkers below a busy airport? That was always going to be a disaster waiting to happen, which of course is what Neuvel needed, but surely he could have manufactured it in a more plausible manner. Then there was the anatomy of the giant robot and the aliens it is modelled on. They are essentially humanoid; similar to us in most respects except for knees that articulate in reverse like a bird. This I have no problem with and the fact that it caused problems for humans trying to operate it but in his solution to this issue he seems to forget that both the hip and the ankle must also reverse to work with the reversed knee. There were a number of other plot holes that gave me pause but they are more spoilerish in nature so I won’t go into them here (the ones I have mentioned appear very early in the book so I don’t consider them to be real spoilers).

Still the writing is generally good, especially for a debut novel, and it is well edited which is also a relief for a new author, though I would have been very disappointed had it not been with Penguin as the publisher! The blurb has comments like “This year’s The Martian” which, as is so often the case with such descriptions, is totally misleading. First I would not describe this as hard science fiction, certainly not in comparison with The Martian; there is plenty of alien handwavium technology and the whole premise of the book bears no resemblance to the Martian in structure, topic, humour or pretty much anything else; about the only thing they have in common is that they are both SF. Not that I’m saying Sleeping Giants is necessarily worse but it’s just that a comparison between the two is badly misleading.

A good book though not brilliant, however being Neuvel’s debut it does offer much promise for the future.

3/5 stars
 

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