Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
‘I heard a crack behind me. It could have been a hare. Something drew my eye to the bottom of the hill. I left my bicycle on the trail and started slowly making my way down, moving branches out of my way. It was hard to see, as the leaves hadn’t fallen yet, but there was this eerie turquoise glow seeping through the branches. I couldn’t pinpoint where it came from. It seemed to be coming from everything.’
A girl named Rose is riding her bike near her home when she falls through the earth. She wakes at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand. 17 years later, the mystery of the bizarre artefact remains unsolved. But there are those who refuse to stop searching for answers.
I hadn’t heard anything about this book, hadn’t read any reviews or heard any praise, so I went into it completely blind. Sometimes I find it’s best to do that with books, so your reading isn’t influenced by anyone else’s opinion. That said, here’s what I thought.
I admit that when I first started reading I was thrown off a little by the style. While the first chapter is told in normal prose, after that the narrative is put together in an epistolary structure – through recorded conversations, mission logs, journal entries, etc. The result is a fascinating piecing together of a story that has more twists and turns than a rollercoaster.
The risk with an epistolary narrative is that it always risks sounding unrealistic, but, aside from a few awkward moments when characters are giving obvious exposition through dialogue, Neuvel carries it off with aplomb. There are a handful of main characters each given a unique voice and personality traits and so realistically drawn that by the time you finish the book you’ll feel as though you really know them.
The frequent twists and turns are sure to keep you engrossed, and the plot was increasingly unpredictable; you can never be sure what’s going to happen from one page to the next. Although it has some big ideas behind it, Neuvel never once gets bogged down in the jargon and manages to keep his story moving at the pace of a thriller.
Despite its thrills and action sequences, however, Sleeping Giants is also largely concerned with ethics. It will force you to question how far you would be willing to go in the name of scientific progress, how much you would be willing to sacrifice, and whether weapons of mass destruction are ever a good idea.
This is the first book in a trilogy (the second book is out now and the third is out in May), and the last few pages are certain to have you coming back for more.