Saturday, 7 May 2016

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel


This was one of those times where I judged a book by its cover and that turned out to be a very good thing.  I picked up Sleeping Giants because, well, just look at it.  The cover is by Faceout Studio, so props to them for making such a beautiful book!

  
Sleeping Giants begins when 11 year old Rose Franklin falls in a hole, that happens to contain a giant, mysterious hand.  17 years later, with no one any the wiser as to the hand's origins or purpose, the physicist Rose is assigned to resume the investigations.  We follow her and the team she puts together in their discoveries through journal entries, mission logs and interviews, in a style reminiscent of The Martian or another book I recently reviewed, Illuminae.  The interviews are conducted by an unnamed gentleman who intentions are never fully revealed, and even less information is given regarding his identity.  All we can tell is that he is immensely influential, and he has taken an interest in the artefact.

As the book continues the search for similar artefacts, their origin having been concluded to not be human in nature, the world enters an arms race.  Political tensions run high as borders are crossed and laws broken in the pursuit of truth and power.  Sleeping Giants is packed full of surprises, ones that left me open mouthed with shock and my boyfriend concerned as to why I was staring at a book in such horror.  Many authors try to subtly lead up to climactic events, and are often unsuccessful, leaving the reader thoroughly unsurprised by developments, Neuvel simply writes so that there is little to no build up; instead things just happen, and you are left reeling and attempting to grasp the fact that that really did just take place.  

Neuvel himself is a linguist, and the character of Vincent brings that aspect of his knowledge to the fore within the novel.  I will admit to geeking out over the reference to Hattic (I have my fingers crossed for Sumerian being referenced in the next one) and loving the explanations of the different linguistic and numerical systems.  Don't let the technicalities of the language and numbers put you off; they're explained in such a way that they don't overcomplicate anything, and no understanding of them is required for the book.  


The plot itself is fast paced and thrilling, with more twists and turns than a hedge maze.  The characters are fully realised with all their flaws and strengths made apparent, and the various interviews and diary entries give real insight into all of their individual motivations.  The group Rose puts together is diverse and multi-faceted, all with emotional baggage.  

Overall this is an incredible first novel and I have nothing bad to say about it.  Sleeping Giants is a tale of cryptic puzzles and world altering events, but done in such a way that the characters are the heart of the story.  We see everything through their eyes, lending the world a very human sense of realism; while there is an ever growing possibility of alien existence and potential war brewing, we are equally concerned about the relationships between the characters.  This is done in such a way that the mundanities of life are not distracting from the wider story, instead they are just as engaging.  At the time of writing I have already started rereading it, and I cannot recommend it more highly.

After a bit of searching I discovered that a film adaptation is in the works, and the next book in the series is already written!  I'm really quite excited about this.
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