Review: SLEEPING GIANTS by Sylvain Neuvel (Del Rey/ Michael Joseph)

NeuvelS-SleepingGiantsUSAn interesting start to a new series

Deadwood, USA. A girl sneaks out just before dark to ride her new bike. Suddenly, the ground disappears beneath her. Waking up at the bottom of a deep pit, she sees an emergency rescue team above her. The people looking down see something far stranger…

“We always look forward. We never look back.”

That girl grows up to be Dr. Rose Franklyn, a brilliant scientist and the leading world expert on what she discovered. An enormous, ornate hand made of an exceptionally rare metal, which predates all human civilisation on the continent. 

“But this thing … it’s different. It challenges us. It rewrites history.”

An object whose origins and purpose are perhaps the greatest mystery humanity has ever faced. Solving the secret of where it came from — and how many more parts may be out there — could change life as we know it.

“It dares us to question what we know about ourselves.”

But what if we were meant to find it? And what happens when this vast, global puzzle is complete…?

“About everything.”

I had very high hopes for Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants. It sounded really interesting and, as an epistolary novel, I was certainly intrigued to see how the author built the story. For the main, it is very well-written and interesting. That being said, the story flagged a bit towards the end, despite being the start of a new series.

There’s a lot to like here. The premise is really intriguing, and for the main Neuvel does a great job of teasing out information through the various interviews and ‘documents’ the novel draws on. We learn of the initial discovery of the hand, followed by the team’s quest to locate other parts of the statue (or whatever it might be), and eventual attempts to get the thing to do something. It’s all nicely presented, gradually revealed. We read of their difficulties in certain areas, the obstacles they encounter (human-created and related to the objects themselves), and conflicts of interest and philosophy. There is plenty of tension among the ranks (military and scientific), not to mention some domestic and international political intrigue and push-back.

NeuvelS-SleepingGiantsUKPerhaps it is the epistolary nature of the novel that eventually led to it losing steam. This hasn’t happened in the past with this type of novel, though, so perhaps it was the necessity to put the brakes on and leave something for the next novel (Waking Gods). I read the first half or so very quickly, swept up by not only Neuvel’s excellent prose, but also the story — it seemed intriguing, there was mystery and weird science stuff going on. But, eventually, the story just… fizzled. Once we learn more about the statue and the various theories and questions it poses about everything we know about Earth, technology and so forth, the momentum dropped. Things became a little more vague. Also, given the development in tensions and character relationships, the interviews and even diary entries, etc., ending up creating a bit of emotional distance from what the characters were going through, just when we really should have been becoming more invested and/or engaged. It’s a pity, because the novel started so strongly. Maybe it was just my mood?

Despite this issue, though, I’m still interested in reading the next Themis Files novel, Waking Gods, which will hopefully pick up the story’s momentum and pacing, and be as interesting and engrossing as the start of this novel. Crossing fingers…


Sleeping Giants is published in the US/Canada by Del Rey, and in the UK by Michael Joseph. It’s out now. The North American cover for Waking Gods is below (due to be published April 4th, 2017).


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