Waking Gods – More Of The Same

30134847Last year saw a large break-out success in the science fiction genre in the form of Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel. For a spoiler free summary: the book told the story of a young girl who falls through the earth onto a giant’s hand. This young girl grows up to assemble a team of scientists, military, and government officials who set about digging out the giant – tracking down the missing pieces – and assembling them. This is arguably a huge achievement for science, and an incredibly bad/good idea depending on your point of view. Our second book picks up ten years after the first with a new threat looming on the horizon – other giants have arrived on earth.

The main sell of Sleeping Giants was its innovative (yes I know it has been done before, but it still felt fresh) style of using only dialogue to tell the story. The chapters are interviews, conversations, phone calls, radio broadcasts etc. and they keep the book moving at a very fast pace. Dialogue is a lot of fun, and often my favorite part of stories. With the entire story told through talking you can expect lots of great one liners left and right. However, as we move into Waking Gods, the second book in Neuval’s trilogy, the appeal of only dialogue is starting to grow old for me. There are some inherent issues that arise with only dialogue storytelling in the second novel. For starters, the first book lent itself to mostly research, explorations, and discussion – something that dialogue does really well. Book two on the other hand, has a lot of combat and action. And frankly action scenes told only through dialogue, are pretty bad. The idea of two giant colossi duking it out in downtown London gets me hot and bothered, but when it happens in Waking Gods the scene only lasts a few seconds and you can barely tell what is happening. However, that is not to say the book isn’t exciting.

The conflict is successfully elevated from book one, and follows an escalating mystery with the answer preventing human extinction – so the stakes feel high the entire time. The puzzle feels both captivating and well planned, and kept me burning through the book straight until the end. The answer to the mystery was not the greatest reveal of all time, but nor was it disappointing – falling somewhere in the middle of the two. If I had one request it wouild be that I wished the escalation through the book was a little more gradual, as we went from mild concern to pants-soiling terror in a very short period – something I usually like more slowly build up. In addition, the characters range from lovable, to getting on your nerves. The best characters still tend to be the two who we know nothing about, the shadowy government worker conducting all the interviews and the mysterious Mr. Burns. While we know little about them, they have huge personalities and brighten up Waking Gods (which is severely needed as it is not a particularly happy book).

In the end I don’t have that much more to say about Waking Gods, other than if you liked the first book you will likely enjoy the second. I am starting to tire a little of the style, but Waking Gods definitely delivers more of that punchy dialogue I liked in Sleeping Giants with some new mysteries to solve. I would recommend Neuval avoid combat though, unless he comes up with a more interesting way to talk about it. If you enjoyed Sleeping Giants, I recommend you continue on with the series with the next installment, Waking gods.

Rating: Waking Gods – 6.5/10

Sleeping Giants – 2016’s Gigantic Dark-Horse (See What I Did There?)

When it comes to publishers telling me their books are good, I tend to not trust them. I firmly believe that a company would never tell me their product was bad, so why should I trust them when they say its good? With this in mind, I was very skeptical of Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. I received an ARC copy of the book, which comes out of April next year, and was told it was “the next big thing”. Needless to say, it came as a huge surprise to me that I think the publisher is right, this book is going to do well because it is fantastic.

Sleeping Giants is the story of a literal giant, and a team of scientists who discover and study it. The giant is a scientific marvel, and is in pieces strewn all across the world. The job of the team is to recover all the pieces no matter where they lay, reassemble the titan, and bring it back to life so to speak. This is a problem for a variety of reasons, such as the giants presence is as subtle as a building demolition, parts of it are in hostile countries, and the team does not have a clue as to what it is or what it does. Thus begins a novel full of political drama, boundless curiosity, and scientific wonder.

The story is told in an offbeat manner, with the entire book written almost exclusively in dialogue from interviews about the project, reminding me fondly of World War Z. However, Sylvain Neuvel still manages to pack in tons of descriptions and storytelling through clever use of the interviews, occasional journals, and a few real time narrations of discoveries. The cast of characters in the story are varied and interesting, but none of them are particularly deep. The focus is much more on the constant discoveries the team makes, and the slow unraveling of the mystery of the giant. In fact. the deepest character is likely the interviewer himself who builds a lot of character as he talks to everyone else. The book is actually quite short, but is still very gripping and exciting. There are many minor twists that keep you on the edge of your seat and the novel does a great job exploring the cost of progress in mankind.

However, my one complaint with Sleeping Giants is that there didn’t really feel like there was a climax at the end of the book. The novel maintains an intense steady burn that kept me hooked page after page, but at the end of the novel I felt a bit like I had read the first half of a book and wished it had come to a more definitive end. However, it also felt like I read the first half of a really good book, so I was not that upset.

A lesson I learned with Sleeping Giants is not to review a book 6 months before it comes out, because now the wait for book 2 is even longer. The book is short, sweet, and thrilling and I definitely recommend it for all readers. Look for the fantastic Sleeping Giants in April of next year.

Rating: 8.5/10