Sunday, July 31, 2016

Mysterious Body Parts

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files, #1)Sleeping Giants 
by Sylvain Neuvel

“Deadwood sure isn’t thriving, but it’s still standing. And the landscape is breathtaking. It’s sitting right on the edge of the Black Hills National Forest, with its eerie rock formations, beautiful pine forests, barren rock, canyons, and creeks. I can’t think of a more beautiful place on Earth. I can understand why someone would want to build something there.”   ― Sylvain Neuvel, Sleeping Giants

I read this book on my kindle app and it was one of my better experiences doing so. The story begins with a prologue that captures the reader's attention as it narrates the experience of 11-year-old Rose Franklin falling 50 feet through the ground and into a giant metal hand. Then the story jumps to 17 years later, when an adult Rose, now a physicist, is trying to find the rest of the body that belongs to the metal hand, as well as whoever, or whatever, put it there. Rose takes on the mystery with help from Kara, a pilot, Vincent, a linguist, and others.

The story benefits from multiple plot lines with the suspense of each complementing the other. There is the original mystery of the body parts that begins with the metal hand and proceeds to lead Rose and her associates throughout the world exploring for body parts. Rose is a physicist tasked with investigating exactly what the hand is made of. Its composition is nearly impossible, metallurgically speaking, and it weighs one-tenth of what it should. This seems to be beyond human comprehension. In addition the exploration is compounded by the speculation as to what the large body was for and who made it. Since it is thousands of years old this speculation excludes human origin.

The project to find the body parts leads to a further plot line that involves international politics, particularly when Kara Resnik, an Army helicopter pilot, crashes while running a covert operation over Syria. The cause of her crash soon reveals itself: another piece of the giant robot has appeared. Further complications are aroused when a French-Canadian linguist named Vincent Couture makes inroads toward decoding the symbols, he and the rest of Rose's investigating team unleash an international race to find the rest of the robot — a race that upends the geopolitical stage, even as it threatens Rose, Kara and Vincent, all of whom find themselves pawns in a game played by shadowy figures with less-than-noble plans for this new yet ancient technology.

This entertaining read also benefited from the use of an interrogatory approach to narration as the characters told the story to an anonymous questioner.  There was, however, a bit of suspension of belief required (more than normal for science fiction). The author is not a physicist nor an anthropologist (in fact he has a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Chicago). Thus the science behind the story has a few holes, but that does not diminish the suspense of the mystery, the chase, or the international intrigue. The result is a first time science fiction novel I can recommend to most readers.

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1 comment:

Brian Joseph said...

The plot sounds fascinating. Though you allude to some holes in the science this sounds like a fairly plausible piece of speculative fiction. This sounds the type of book that I grew up reading and that I still enjoy.