Sylvain Neuvel’s debut Sleeping Giants was one of the best genre novels of last year, and it’s great to report that his follow-up keeps to that high standard.
The world is still an uncertain place following the discovery of a giant alien robot named Themis, but the question of who left it there is promptly answered with the arrival of a second colossus that is obviously superior to its predecessor. After a brief period of inactivity, it soon turns out to be hostile, and it’s up to Dr Rose Franklin and pilots Kara Resnick and Vincent Couture to come up with some way to halt the end of mankind.
One of the great strengths of Sleeping Giants was Neuvel’s gift for writing characters that were likeable, relatable but complex, and our greater familiarity with Rose, Kara and Vincent gives him room to take them in some interesting, and occasionally shocking, new directions. Rose is back from the dead and unhappy about it, Kara and Vincent are making marriage work in the face of the apocalypse, and the unnamed power player working to save humanity seems to have grown a heart.
Meanwhile, the sense of giddy discovery that accompanied the first novel is replaced by a powerful air of dread, as the first alien titan is promptly followed by many more. Neuvel isn’t pulling any punches here, and when things get bad, they get really bad. Using the same transcribed conversations/statements technique as the first novel allows him to get right up close to catastrophic events to great effect. It feels a little less broad in scope but the impact is powerful.
As the second novel, there is inevitably a certain amount of wait-and-see, but it’s far from uneventful. This is a superb follow-up and we can’t wait to see where Neuvel takes this story next.