If a giant robot hand was found near your backyard, how would your national government react? Would it tell the world, seek other nations’ help to find the other parts, and use what they learned for the betterment of all? Nah, mine neither.
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel begins when a girl falls into a pit in the woods behind her house. At the bottom of the pit is a half buried hand of a giant robot. The robot hand is thousands of years old. The discovery is quickly hushed up and the American government begins quietly searching the world for the rest of the robot’s body parts. Unfortunately, extracting giant robot body parts from other nations’ territory can be difficult to do quietly and things get messy.
And what to do if the parts are all collected? Wouldn’t it be foolish to try to assemble them and turn the robot on, despite not knowing what the thing is for and what it can do?
Thank goodness the team assembled to study the robot is singularly focused, all get along, and don’t have any professionally inappropriate romances that might endanger their mission. Or, maybe not.
Written as a series of interview transcripts, Sleeping Giants is an easy engaging read that entertains while touching on themes of trust, loyalty, group dynamics, and truth. Both the practical and ethical implications of the robot’s discovery and the American government’s attempt to monopolize it are well thought out. With its blend of science fiction and techno thriller, Sleeping Giants is reminiscent of Michael Crichton’s Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park.
Sleeping Giants is the first book in the Themis Files series. The next books in the series are Waking Gods and Only Human. For a similarly science-y read, but with more elements of horror, try Devolution by Max Brooks, about a seemingly idyllic eco-community in Washington state that is suddenly cut off from the rest of the world by the eruption of Mt. Rainier. For a timely, character-focused story about rebuilding the world after a devastating pandemic, try A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen.