December 16, 2017

Review: Waking Gods

Waking Gods Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bumped this book to the top of my To Be Read pile because it finished second in the Goodreads Choice Awards, SF category. Last year I reviewed the Themis Files #1, Sleeping Giants, and gave it four stars.

This book is better.

Mainly because everything set up in the first volume pays off in spades here, as all hell breaks loose. There is a full-scale alien invasion, with 200-foot-tall robots appearing across the globe and wiping the floor with anything the humans can throw at them. Part of this is due to the fact that humanity has at best a superficial knowledge of Themis, the robot discovered and reassembled in vol. 1, and what it can do. Kara Resnik, one of Themis's "pilots" along with Vincent Couture, her co-pilot and husband, defeats the first robot by chance. But more of them appear and the casualties mount up, and things don't look too great for the survival of humanity.

At the same time, the question of who the aliens are and why they're attacking Earth is tackled, and answers are provided that I didn't expect at all. There are quite a few interesting plot twists in this story, along with discussions about destiny and fate, and what humans are supposed to be as opposed to what they are, and whether this matters. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking, and Rose Franklin, the protagonist of Sleeping Giants, has to figure out a way to defeat aliens with technology far beyond anything humans can imagine.

The format here is the same as the first book: almost no descriptions, exposition or interior monologue. With the exception of a few journal entry chapters, everything is transcribed interviews or recordings, which means that this book is almost entirely told through dialogue. The author has clearly settled into this unusual format and is in control of his story at all times. My only objection is that a female character from the first book is "fridged"--killed off to provide emotional development for other characters. But to be fair, a male character from the first book is treated the same way, and the death toll in this one is high in any case.

This is a fast-paced and gripping story, and ends on a nail-biting cliffhanger. I'm eagerly anticipating the next book.

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