Review: Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Tuesday, July 4, 2017
Title: Waking Gods
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Genre: science fiction
Series: Themis Files #2
Pages: 320
Published: April 2017
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

In the gripping sequel to Sleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel’s innovative series about human-alien contact takes another giant step forward.

As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.

I seem to be in the minority but I enjoyed Waking Gods less than Sleeping Giants. I really loved the first novel from Sylvain Neuvel; I could hardly even believe that this whirl of science and space and aliens was a debut novel. The dossier style, the ambitious plotting, the unnamed central figure operating from the shadows and from center stage.. it just worked so very well. A uniquely fun and forebodingly good experience. The twists and turns of the plot, the way the characters complicated and entwined lives coalesced.. it built so well into a great story. The ending? THE ENDING. Flabbergastingly good. But perhaps that was just a bit much for Waking Gods to live up to a year later.

There is still some seriously clever stuff going on here in Neuvel's sophomore effort, and also some very fun stuff -- Neuvel is a very creative and original talent when it comes to subverting and fullfilling science fiction tropes -- but the heart of it, the emotional investment I had with Kara, Vincent, Our Friend, Rose --- had nowhere to land here in Waking Gods. The inclusion of some new characters was a strong start but they lacked the definition really needed to invest and never got the screen time to become more dynamic. Even the familiar characters from before that appear had an emotional disconnect the second time around.

But I seem to be the baaa baaa black sheep for this anticipated sequel. I liked Waking Gods. It was.. good. I was entertained and appreciated the twists of the plot. But I didn’t love it. I didn’t have the emotional connection to the story or to the characters within it. I though it a bit.. rushed and over-complicated, with clarity issues in the writing. I appreciated the good points enough to continue and finish, but overall was mildly disappointed. Even the character deaths left me unemotional. However, this ending is impossible to ignore or forget, as was the gamechanger ending of Sleeping Giants. Though Neuvel's most recent effort was not a perfect read, it cannot be denied that the man is a master at ending his books with a memorable bang.

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