Geek Lit: Sylvain Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants Review

Yes, the other geeks read. Just not as many books as Tom or comic books as Jimmy. Because if you check out the Books & Comics category here at Gabbing Geek that’s 99% of what you’ll find.  nd truth be told it’s rare I find time to read a non-Red Rising book these days.  But after hearing some great buzz for Sleeping Giants, I decided to give it a whir.


Sleeping Giants starts with an interview transcript of a scientist who, while a young child, was exploring in the woods when she fell into an underground chamber and landed in a giant robotic hand.  Coincidentally, the girl grew up to become involved in a secret project studying the hand, a project that has made little progress.  The only progress they have made is to decide that the robot is old, has been buried on Earth for thousands of years, and it wasn’t made by humans.

The action picks up when the team discovers how to find other pieces and then the race is on to collect these giant robot segments and assemble the robot before other countries figure out what’s going on.  Or to reach the point where it doesn’t matter.  And still the mystery remains as to who built the robot and why they left it on Earth.

That’s a great premise for a book.  Ancient Voltron discovered scattered around the planet?  Sign me up!  And the book got a lot of industry buzz due to its publication history–Mr Neuvel tried to get a regular publisher but couldn’t so he self-published.  When a review for the book landed on a prominent website causing a movie producer to snap up the film rights, suddenly regular publishers became interested and now the book is widely available and promoted.  It’s a story that we haven’t seen since The Martian but we’re likely to see repeated over the years.

This is a fast, easy read–mostly because the book is told entirely through interview transcripts.  The pacing of the dialogue keeps the pages turning but it tells a much more cohesive story than World War Z did, another interview transcript book.  And the story itself is compelling, although it is obviously the first in a series and I didn’t feel like the book told an entire story but rather found a convenient stopping point.

The transcript format had a strong positive and a strong negative.  On the positive side, the interviewer quickly becomes the most interesting person in the book.  He’s interviewing all the various team members over key incidents, but he’s also a shadowy figure that seems, at times, to be the most powerful person in the United States and, at others, to be the weakest.  Or he’s still the strongest and he’s the most manipulative person imagined.  Or all of this.  Or none of this.  I have no idea, but he’s fascinating.

On the other hand, the format of the book leaves open the biggest unresolved item.  Stories like this are nested narratives–a story within a story.  The usage of transcripts makes the whole thing feel more official, like an actual government project.  But it also opens the question of who is reading this?  Why are we reading these transcripts?  What has caused us to review these items?  Nested narratives have a final level where it has to be explained why the files are being reviewed–this one is left open ended and I felt that was a mistake.  A minor quibble, but one I hope gets resolved in future books.

If you’re looking for a fast, fun summer science-fiction read with A GIANT ROBOT then definitely give Sleeping Giants a turn.

Score: 8 out of 10 sounds of one giant robot hand clapping.


Gabbing Geek co-founder, podcaster

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