This debut novel by Québécois author Sylvain Neuvel centers around a top-secret project to unearth an ancient humanoid machine, the parts of which were scattered across the earth and buried in a time before human recollection. A sort of mecha, presumably extra-terrestrial in origin and seemingly impervious to human weapons, the relic promises political and military dominance for whoever succeeds in mastering it.
The novel is told in an ambitious documentary style, eschewing conventional narrative and telling its story instead through a collection of transcripts, articles, and reports. The style works well here, giving the book the raw, unfiltered immediacy of watching breaking news, and the result is a fun page-turner and a promising start to a new series.
I did find some serious flaws, though, that I hope can still be at least partly remedied in subsequent books in the series: The geopolitical implications of this seemingly unbeatable weapon are hinted at from the start of the novel, but they really only unfold toward the very end of the book in a way that I found rushed and unconvincing. Also, I was disappointed to see the machine’s backstory given away in one long info dump rather than teased out more subtly over the span of the series.
Still, it was an entertaining book and a solid debut, and I am very much interested in seeing where the story goes in book two of The Themis Files.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley.