Thursday, February 15, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Waking Gods (Themis Files, #2) by Sylvain Neuvel

Waking Gods is the second book in the Themis File trilogy by Sylvain Neuvel. The first book was Sleeping Giants and I gave it a ★★★★☆ review. The key feature of the books in this series is that they are not written in prose, but instead the story is told tangentially, via various textual sources, such as transcripts of interviews, news reports, letters and logs. Of course, this sereies is not the first to do that, but it does provide an interesting aspect of the books which distinguish them from most run-of-the-mill SFF books.

Another interesting aspect of the books are their plots. In Sleeping Giants a giant (nearly 300-foot tall) robot has been left in pieces around the Earth and in the first book those pieces are found and re-assembled into an object (machine?) that is named Themis. It is operated by 2 people inside, one operating the legs and the other operating the arms. Sleeping Giants is mostly about the aftermath of this verification of the existence of aliens and the effects Themis itself has on the world order.

In Waking Gods, the story advances rapidly because multiple robots similar to Themis appear all over the Earth, first in the heart of London, but then in the center of approximately a dozen metropolises (Moscow, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, New York City, etc etc). Soon it becomes clear the robots are not friendly and millions of people die. A central plot thread in Waking Gods is basically about a  slow-moving, human extinction alien invasion by giant killer robots.

However, if this main plot thread (will humanity survive an invasion by technologically superior aliens?) is not thrilling enough, Neuvel also extends the story to update us on what happened to the primary characters introduced in Sleeping Giants. The two humans who have the power to run Themis are Kara Resnik (a U.S. Army helicopter pilot) and Victor Couture (a French-Canadian linguist). They are led by Rose Franklin, the scientist who discovered and assembled Themis (and who has a mysterious 4-year gap in her memory). The most intriguing character in the story is never named, but his words are always written in bold and he seems to have nearly limitless powers to make governments abide by his will. Waking Gods is at its best when it focuses on the interactions between these human characters and depicts (always obliquely) the effects of the world-changing, apocalyptic events on them. Impressively, Neuvel is not afraid to provide deadly consequences to his characters for the actions that occur in the book. Not all the characters who were introduced in the first book survive the events of the second book.

 Overall, Waking Gods is a very fun, scientific thriller about an existential threat to human existence caused by giant killer robots created by aliens!

 Rating:★★★★ (for overall authorial ingenuity and surprising plot twists and developments).

Title: Waking Gods (Themis Files, #2).
Author: Sylvain Neuvel.
Paperback: 336 pages.
Date Published: April 4, 2017.
Date Read: February 7, 2018.

★★★★★  (5.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A/A- (3.83/4.0).


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