Sleeping Giants (2016) by Sylvain Neuvel Review
I love science fiction. Whether it be concise or wacky, hard or not, this genre may be used as a medium to deliver some heavy-handed themes in a theoretical position. Science fiction, often in film, may occasionally be seen by others as an excuse to just show off some practical or computer-generated CGI for huge action blockbusters, which is a pity. What I love and appreciate is when authors or filmmakers use this genre as a way to create a statement about life in general. Take Villeneuve’s Arrival or Jones’s Moon for instance; these two films explore “What if?” scientific concepts and use these to substantiate the core ideas they want to tell in their story.
That is Sleeping Giants. It is theoretical. It is speculative. It doesn’t stick to the good vs. evil shtick. This novel explores the premise of the possibility of giant, glowing metal body parts existing beneath the Earth’s crust. From there, the novel looks at this idea in a different angle, and through interviews and journal entries, establishes this scientific possibility and; consequently, brings on some significant yet expertly handled themes.
It is easy to see why people can easily dislike this novel; it is not fast-paced, it is not action-packed, and the plot is merely one huge info dump of the political and the scientific consequences that may occur once this matter falls into the hands of human beings. For me, what set apart Sleeping Giantsso much compared to other works of its nature was that it easily engaged me into the story and, in spite of the plethora of scientific jargon just going over my head, it still interested me. I wanted to know what was actually going on behind this metallic, robotic figure. Was it created by our ancestors? Or perhaps aliens? Did it come from outer space? Or was it all just some methodical hoax?
Sometimes, authors show off their ingeniousness in a particular field of esoteric science by writing a novel. It works, and sometimes it doesn’t. A prime example of this is Weir’s The Martian. I did enjoy the film with Matt Damon; however, the novel felt like a science manual. I had to force myself through it, and I didn’t care any more about the story because the science in it just didn’t interest me. With that being the case, Neuvel did a particularly fantastic job of effective storytelling to the point that I was interested in everything that was going on—science related or not. Even though the structure of the plot could’ve been handled better, the entertainment value found in this made the plot look like a tiny smear of a problem.
Sleeping Giants may not be the finest piece of speculative fiction out there, but the manner of how it was written to make even the most complicated bits and pieces of science interesting was, in my opinion, truly impressive. There are occasional bursts of action, but where this novel really shines is in how it takes a scientific concept and uses it to formulate and exhibit such mature and thematically complex ideas. This may not work for everybody, but for those tired of all the repetitive “science fiction” novels and films being spoonfed easily with zero thematic value, this is worth giving out a shot.