Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants has gotten to me in the weirdest, most unexpected way. On almost every level, it should slot neatly alongside the myriad of fun-but-forgettable stories I read/listen to endlessly and immediately move on from. The writing is solid but not stunning, the plot is damn good fun but not life-changing, and there’s a love triangle thrown in there that really doesn’t need to exist – and yet something about it has grabbed me and won’t let go.

In brief, the book follows the discovery of a GIANT ROBOT, dismantled into numerous pieces across the globe. I say GIANT ROBOT in caps because c’mon, that premise alone is hella fun. I love a good robot story (Battlestar Galactica, Westworld) and this one is every bit as cool as it promises to be.

Told in the form of interviews between those working to re-assemble the GIANT ROBOT and an enigmatic, morally ambiguous puppeteer pulling strings behind the scenes, I’ve read a lot of reviews comparing Sleeping Giants to World War Z. That doesn’t ring true for me. World War Z is one of my favourite books, and I love its after-the-fact narrative, weaving together numerous viewpoints to create a true oral history. Sleeping Giants reads very differently. For a start, there’s no after-the-fact about it – we’re given a front row seat to watch events unfold, as the robot is assembled, piloted and launched onto the world-stage. And our POVs are limited, told largely from the chief scientist and two pilots involved in the project.

I think the part that spoke most strongly to me was a ‘dark-night-of-the-soul’ moment, in which our omniscient interviewer confronts the origins of the GIANT ROBOT and all the helplessness that entails. He knows his position is futile and hey, humanity will probably go to hell in a handbasket, but he can either roll over and let that happen or go down swinging. And that’s the element I love. It’s the same reason I’m addicted to Person of Interest – they know they’re probably doomed to failure, but hell, at least they’ll go down in a blaze of glory.

After finishing the audio, the first thing I did was buy the paperback so I can read through in its original format. The audiobook makes for excellent, radio play-esque listening, but some of the more military/scientific sections don’t come across as easily as I imagine they do in print. Plus, I just really want to stay in this world for a while longer (before heading straight into the sequel).

[Read from 1-5 May 2017]

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