Sleeping Giants Book Cover

Sleeping Giants

Sylvain Neuvel, 2016

When she was eleven years old, Rose Franklin fell into a big hole. Nothing remarkable about that — adventurous kids fall into holes all the time. But this one was different. At the bottom of it was a giant metal hand, and it clearly wasn’t made by humans.

Fast forward 17 years and a series of fortunate events have led Rose to the hand once more. She is now a physicist and becomes head of the team who will finally unravel the secrets of the mysterious hand. The hand must be part of a larger figure and the team search the globe for the remaining pieces. Within months they have found more pieces of a huge humanoid figure, and it’s now clear to everyone that man is not alone in the universe.

The novel deals with the discovery of these huge pieces and the revelations surrounding what they build. This aspect of the story is great fun but after that I lost interest. I did complete the book, just to see where it went, but I wasn’t engaged with it at all. Why not?

The major flaw with this book was the decision to recount the story through recorded interviews and personal journals. Most of the story is reported through interviews conducted by a nameless yet powerful character. This man is pulling the strings of the entire operation and although we get some insight into his position and motivations, the nature of these reports means we never get to explore the human truths that drive all the characters.

Dr. Rose Franklin is joined by Kara Resnick, a feisty (groan) helicopter pilot, Ryan Mitchell is the requisite every-man marine, and later we meet Victor Couture, a linguist, and several other secondary characters. Their testimony requires all sorts of literary contortions to make the text make sense and the story work. But it’s just not how people speak. It results in unnatural dialogue and strange exposition and it left me really annoyed. This is a deeply unsatisfactory way to tell a story. The story ends up directing the characters in what to do and say, when it should clearly be the exact opposite. It just didn’t work for me and I remain confused as to why the book is so popular.

I enjoyed the treasure hunting part of this story, and you could see that being the first 20 minutes of a mainstream blockbuster film. But if you’re into sophisticated, character driven sci-fi or expansive space opera, I think you’d be as disappointed as I was and you won’t be missing out if you skip this book entirely. Not recommended.