jueves, 14 de abril de 2016

Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel


(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)

Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to Sleeping Giant, by Mastodon (Spotify, YouTube). 

Books featuring giant robots are bringing me very nice surprises this year. First, it was United States of Japan, by Peter Tieryas, that I reviewed a couple of months ago. Now, it is Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel, a novel that has been compared to World War Z and The Martian. I really loved Max Brook's story but I was unable to even finish Weir's, so I had mixed feelings before starting reading the book. Sleeping Giants, though, turned out to be a really solid and entertaining science fiction thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed from page one. 

The first thing that stands out about Sleeping Giants is that it is written in a non-conventional way, especially for a thriller. The novel consists of a series of files (mainly interviews of a mysterious agent with several people, but also reports, fragments of news or recordings) instead of traditional chapters with a narrator, description, dialog and so on (hence the comparison with World War Z, I suppose). This is a risky approach, but Neuvel makes it work more than perfectly and it becomes one of the strongest points of the novel.

In fact, I was really surprised by how the author manages to tell a story that has a very definite cast of protagonists and quite a number of action scenes without resorting to exposition or descriptions. It is remarkable how well we get to know the characters and to follow the plot even when we witness some of the main events only after they happen, through allusions or incomplete reports. Remarkable, indeed. 

Speaking about the characters, another strong point of Sleeping Giants is the mysterious person that conducts the interviews (and, I guess, compiles the whole set of files) and his secret and ambitious agenda. The desire to know more about him and his intentions, as well as to discover more about the giant robot and her origin, kept me reading chapter after chapter and made me finish the book in just a few days. One the most addictive novels I've read in a long time.  

The book also has some minor flaws. A couple of events are a little too convenient for the story to advance, for instance. Also, a certain "mystery" that is solved by one of the characters after a lot of people failed at figuring it out seemed not really that hard and the level of mathematics involved in the solution is, in fact, quite easy to grasp even for someone without formal training so it should have been evident also for all the experts that tried to work it out. 

All in all, and despite these minor problems, Sleeping Giants is a book that completely succeeds at what it aims to do: it is a really entertaining read, with some neat ideas and an original structure that works extremely well. I highly recommend it if you are looking for an intelligent, well-written science fiction thriller.

(You can also read this review in Spanish/También puedes leer esta reseña en español)   

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