Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping GiantsThis 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.

Reviews: Shambling Towards Hiroshima, Raising Stony Mayhall

Shambling Towards HiroshimaA Hugo Award nominee for Best Novella and winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, Shambling Towards Hiroshima by James Morrow is framed as the memoir and extended suicide note of Syms Thorley, B-movie actor. Having achieved cult fandom in horror circles for his role as the Frankensteinian Corpuscula and the mummy Kha-Ton-Ra, Thorley is recruited toward the end of World War II for a top secret US Navy project: the Navy has been breeding massive fire-breathing lizards, and they intend to convince a group of Japanese ambassadors of the utility of surrender with a demonstration of the lizards’ destructive power in miniature.

If Thorley, with a rubber lizard suit and miniature Japanese metropolis, can terrify the Japanese into surrender, he will put an end to a bloody war and avert a tragic demonstration of that other top-secret US project, the atomic bomb. What follows is a darkly humorous, satirical, and sometimes touching treatment of people trying to carry on as normal in a time of violent international conflict. A quick, entertaining, but nonetheless thought-provoking read with hints of Catch 22 and Slaughterhouse Five. Continue reading Reviews: Shambling Towards Hiroshima, Raising Stony Mayhall