Sleeping Giants

Sleeping Giants - Sylvain Neuvel

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

This novel follows a close-knit team of scientists and military personnel gathered in the search for body parts: giant body parts, from a satue whose pieces were scattered throughout the world. What is that statue? Who built it? And is it merely a work of art, or something more, something darker?

The story is told through interviews and excerpts from reports and diaries (mostly interviews, led by an interviewer whose identity is never known). I tend to like that kind of format—not all the time, but now and then, it's a nice change from more traditional stotytelling. Original? Perhaps, perhaps not. I just happen to like that kind of change. I got engrossed fairly quickly in the plot at first, wondering how the characters would meet, interact, how long they'd take to gather all the parts (and whether they'd succeed), etc.

Unfortunately, while the original plot was still interesting, I couldn't connect with the characters. They remained far away, distant, a bit cliché (the defiant pilot who keeps sassing the interviewer, the scientist everybody loves, the mysterious interviewer with an agenda of his own...). Oddly enough, perhaps the interviewer was the less unbearable, because at least I was expecting him to remain some kind of cold figure shrouded in mysttery. Except when he talked to the old guy in the restaurant. That broke his image, and it never recovered.

I don't think it was the interview format per se, but the pacing between each of those: it was too fast, events happened too quickly (and drastic events at that, with dire consequences), and they tended to feel... disconnected. Hardly had I started to get to know a character and their interactions with other people, than something would happen, and I'd be all “wait, what, but... why?” I suppose it works in some stories; not in this one. (It may, however, be more appropriate in a movie, where body language could help conveying all that wasn't described through the interviews and reports. I'm not sure. In any case... As much as I'm easily bored with long descriptions, here there weren't enough descriptions, both of places and of actions—if that makes sense.)

This quick succession of events also made some decisions difficult to understand, like the sinking of some important item, only to have people work on the technology to retrieve it a couple of years later. I get the reasoning behind it (matters of geopolitics and all that), yet it still was rather counterproductive, as if the people involved didn't have any grasp on international politics. Not to mention the almost caricatural depiction of other countries (Russia and North Korea, for instance, or, of course, the USA being the country where all started, and that kept intervening even when supposedly out of it).

A tiny 1.5/2 stars. In the end, even though it was a fast read, it was rather boring for most of the story. Too bad for the giant alien robot who was given the shaft here...