Friday, October 04, 2019

69. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

I always find dipping back into contemporary science fiction (and sometimes fantasy) sort of a refresher that lets me keep up my reading pace and breaks up too much mid-twentieth century fiction.  Newer books tend to be cleaner and shinier, with lots of space on the page and often formatting and delivery techniques that make it easy to plow through.  My wife got this from a work colleague and while she wasn't super enthusiastic, I did want to read it because the writer is from Quebec.

The premise is really cool and it starts off intriguingly.  A young girl falls into a hole in the woods near her house and discovers a gigantic hand surrounded by panels covered in strange symbols, all made of some impossible metal.  Later, she grows up to become the lead scientist on the super secret government project to research this hand.   Two blackhawk pilots accidently discover the arm and we soon learn that there is probably all the pieces of what must be a giant super high-tech robot scattered and hidden throughout the globe.

This is the first of the trilogy and is about the team that hunts down the pieces, puts them together and tries to figure out how it works and where it came from.

The book is written as a series of interviews and transcripts of conversations, detailing what happened before.  The interrogator is some faceless operator working for some super vague organization that seems to be above presidential power, yet also somehow weirdly limited.  It's odd.  The narration technique is interesting, but I am not sure it helps or hinders the story.  At times, it felt awkward, with a lot of exposition in the kinds of conversations where there wouldn't normally be that kind of explaining of what happened.  It felt forced.  The book moves along quickly, though, so it wasn't a huge flaw.

Worse, though, was just some of the internal logic.  It may be that the author was gunning for a movie from the beginning, but there is some simplistic interpretation of how governments would behave and worse behaviours by characters that seem to be there just to make a neato plot idea.  In particular, the love triangle which ends up in a guy's legs getting amputated that is just all too convenient so he can have the special prosthetic legs needed to move the robot.  Just way too convenient and the sudden burst of crazy violence by the jilted character came out of nowhere.  The way the politics worked just didn't seem realistic at all.  It's too bad, because the premise is really cool and where that part goes is quite neat.  It's just that all the plot and characterization around it felt at a kind of 80s tv show level of sophistication. 

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