Review of “Only Human” by Sylvain Neuvel

Title: Only Human
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Series: Themis Files #3
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 336
Published: 2018, Del Ray
My Grade: 3 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

In her childhood, Rose Franklin accidentally discovered a giant metal hand buried beneath the ground outside Deadwood, South Dakota. As an adult, Dr. Rose Franklin led the team that uncovered the rest of the body parts which together form Themis: a powerful robot of mysterious alien origin. She, along with linguist Vincent, pilot Kara, and the unnamed Interviewer, protected the Earth from geopolitical conflict and alien invasion alike. Now, after nearly ten years on another world, Rose returns to find her old alliances forfeit and the planet in shambles. And she must pick up the pieces of the Earth Defense Corps as her own friends turn against each other.

MY REVIEW

5, 4, 3. That’s my judgement of how these books unfortunately went. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all three books, but the first was by far the best, the second was slightly less sharp and the third was promising until the end that made the whole book kind of feel a bit unneccessary and very flat. Let me explain why.

If you haven’t read the first two, then here comes spoilers, but I can’t really write this review without it since all the books are connected. The second book ended with the main characters ending up on the planet whose inhabitants created Themis, the Ekts. Super cool. I love other people’s fantasies on how different planets might look. It is somehow different than fantasy where it kind of feels like it is Earth, just another version of it. I loved Esat Ekt and how Neuvel managed to describe the world and the people in depth through files, mostly conversation logs between the characters.

The book starts with the characters coming back to Earth and every chapters now and then was to look back at what had happened there. Sure, it was smart and kept it interesting, but I also think that it would have been better to have put the focus on Esat Ekt and only written a small part of what happened back on Earth after, in normal and logical chronologial order. And the ending should also be completely different. No, wait, I changed my mind. It should be as it is, it is clever. But the ending should have been different! More interesting and not so flat. It was almost anti-climactic. Siri Pettersen had a gigantic cliffhanger at the end of her Raven Rings trilogy, that exact ending would have worked perfectly here too. Just saying.

Even though I mostly wrote about the flaws now, it is a good book and I really enjoyed reading it as well. But when compared to the two prequels, it just doesn’t feel right to give it a higher grade than 3.

Review of “Waking Gods” by Sylvain Neuvel

Title: Waking Gods
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Series: Themis Files #2
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 325
Published: 2017, Del Ray
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

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.

MY REVIEW

After the cliffhanger in Sleeping Giants I couldn’t wait and picked up the second book in the Themis Files trilogy right away. Waking Gods is written in the same way as Sleeping Giants, in interview form. But I have to admit, that it was harder to follow the story in this one, there were more logs than interviews and it was hard to understand exactly what was going on when the characters talked into a mic during the action-packed event. And also when several people were involved in one recording. Like who said what exactly? Not that it actually matters, because you get the idea anyway. I think I am just used to everything being super clear in “normal” books with detailed descriptions and who says what. But to understand what is going on, that is actually not needed and Neuvel proves that very well.

In the first book, you were always sitting on the edge of your reading place, you had no idea what was going to happen, and it took so many surprising turns. The second was more action-packed. Instead of getting previous events explained through interviews, you were there and were told through recorded mission logs. I think I preferred the interviews. But I also see why the author chose to do it. Not gonna spoil it, I promise.

The ending, and I mean the very very last sentence. Extreme cliffhanger! But I had figured that out a long time ago and wasn’t as surprised or dropped my jaw like in the first one. Still, hell of a cliffhanger!

So, lots of action, long time jumps, many deaths, not as many interviews equals to a grade of 4.

Review of “Sleeping Giants” by Sylvain Neuvel

Title: Sleeping Giants
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Series: Themis Files #1
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 320
Published: 2016, Del Ray
My Grade: 5 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square-shaped hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved – the object’s origins, architects, and purpose unknown.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top-secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the relic they seek. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unravelling history’s most perplexing discovery-and finally figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

MY REVIEW

Wow! It has been a long time since I felt like I couldn’t put down a book. Five days to finish a book is fast for me nowadays. And I wanted to pick up the second one right away. And I would have, had I not had a tournament just starting. The ending made me literally sitting with my mouth open on the tram on my way to the tournament. I had been thinking that that could not have truly happened, but at the very end, the epilogue, I was still surprised out of my mind at the revelation. I had been thinking how I should read another book inbetween, but after that ending (and frankly the whole book), I am definitely not. I cannot!

Okay, so I guess I have to explain the crystal clear 5 I gave it. First of all, this is no ordinary book. Like The Illuminae Files, it is written completely from a documentation perspective. Mostly interviews, but also journals and logs of different kinds. Mostly interviews. Very interesting way to write and Neuvel really manages to get the reader to see everything. Isn’t that insane? That just through dialogues, you get a really good idea of what the characters are like and how the environments look like? It’s impressive and Neuvel really does it. And speaking of characters, my complete favorite is the interviewer who you don’t really know anything about. He is so interesting and I can’t wait to find out who he is! He is serious, always use the right words, and fancy ones, well-educated I guess. But he also a smart-ass and really funny, even in his seriousness. Maybe I have gotten the complete wrong picture of him, because like I said you don’t really get any information about who he is, but the way I see him, he is funny and the most interesting character.

What is a minor downside though, is the lack of details and actually the time perception. Where a “normal” book would thoroughly describe every important aspect of the story, this one can sometimes jump several months ahead and all of a sudden something major happened, but it is just mentioned in one sentence and you don’t really get to find out how they managed to do it. It is not needed to understand the story, definitely not, and you get a good understanding of it anyway. But details are good, or maybe I just miss it because all the other books I am reading are full of them.

It gets a strong 5. I was recommended this by a friend who usually don’t read any books, and for once it didn’t take me very long to pick it up and I am so glad I did. An easy read and very entertaining. Now when this review is finished, I will start with Waking Gods right away!