Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Joint Review: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

This book was  all over my favorite bookish media .When it was selected for the book club book on the Pop Rocket podcast I finally decided to pick up the audiobook.

Sleeping Giants is written almost entirely in transcripts and field reports and follows what happens after large metal body parts are discovered buried around the world.

I did this on audio and I thought it worked great. Because there are no adverbs attached to the dialogue the voice actors had so much range to add their own interpretations. My favorite narrator was Katharine Halgren who has this great arrogant, youthful but kind of smarmy voice for Kara, the female hothead pilot with a lot of skill, but also a lot of attitude.

 Unrelated, the narrator for Dr. Rose Franklin sounded a lot like Elizabeth McGovern from Downtown Abbey.

As much as I liked the narration, the format of this book made the story feel so distant. None of the relationships between the character resonated for me. Also, I didn’t know Sylvain Neuvel's gender before reading this, but towards the end I knew he was a man because his female characters get shafted towards the end. The male characters have full arcs and are changed by the end while the female characters have their designated slot (Kara is the hothead pilot, Rose is the maternal leader) and they stay in them until they get to be damsels-in-distresses. Don't get me started on how he toed the line on Mystical Pregnancy.

Apparently this is a series and I’m curious about the sequel, Walking Gods, but I kind of hope it’s not in this format. - ★+.5

17 years after a missing girl is found in the palm of a giant metal hand, the race is on to find out what the metal hand is and who left it behind. Leading the charge on the project is a super shadowy but well connected man who seems more machine than human. This new discovery opens the world up to conflicts, strange science and the possibility that maybe. . . just maybe we are not alone.

Neuvel manages to craft a complete story relying on little to no prose. He leans hard on making the dialogue very precise. You are constantly aware that most of what the characters say is partially making up for the lack of prose. It was often very easy to get lost and miss details without picking up context clues.

I too read this for the Pop Rocket Book Club and I think the host, Guy Branum, made a very good point; this book does the thing that World War Z does, where it tells the story through interviews and reports, but for Sleeping Giants it's unnecessary. It doesn't play with the form or do as deep of a dive as World War Z does. Also, once Oliver Wang pointed out that Kara Resnik is basically Kara Thrace from Battlestar Galactica I couldn't unsee  it. Granted most women in the military are fighter pilots but both Karas somehow manage to get experimented on and sleep with both a hotshot pilot and a nerdy scientist. So... yeah.

In her review Kat mentions that the female characters get "shafted" but this book actually did something that happens a lot to female main characters in sci-fi  (I'm looking at you Starbuck, Scully and Clones from Orphan Black) where their reproductive rights get railroaded for the pursuit of "science". Basically, Your ovaries are in danger, girl.

Overall I thought it was a decent debut with a lot of good ideas. I could definitely see this as a mini series on SyFy. I want to read the sequel but I'm afraid we won't get answers. - 

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