Sleeping Giants (Themis Files)
by Sylvain Neuvel
Cover Artist: Shutterstock (starfield), Charles Brock (symbols);
Case illustations: Rygerszem / Thinkstock
Review by Mel Jacob
Del Rey Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781101886717
Date: 24 January 2017 List Price $16.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
When a strange large metal hand is discovered, nothing happens for years. Then suddenly a secret project seeks to unearth more parts of what is assumed to be an alien artifact. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel follows that search and the problems encountered. Is the artifact a benign gift or a weapon of war? Will activating it alert the alien creators to our presence as a friend or potential foe?
The story is revealed in various snippets, mostly through interviews by the project overseer who is never identified, but appears to have access to high government officials and funding sources. It also uses brief narratives by various people involved in the search.
The project team theorizes that an alien culture created and buried portions of a monumental figure or statue in the distant past in various parts of the world. Locating the parts and assembling them is a gigantic task and requires incursions into unfriendly countries.
The scientist leading the search and the investigation is a physicist who as a child fell into the hand when the land fell away. Now, as the project leader, she has developed a detection method using Argon-37 to locate other parts. As the pieces are gathered, the lab team tries to assemble them. They manage to put together the arms and much of the torso. Inside the torso is a chamber with two places for controllers, a console, and two helmets. It appears one of the two stations in the torso controls the arms and the other the legs but the lower legs operate in reverse to normal human leg motions.
A small team, including a helicopter pilot, her co-pilot, and a linguist from Quebec who is also a skilled mathematician, works to decipher the artifact's use and operation. When Kara, the leader of the helicopter team, puts on one of the two helmets inside the artifact, she screams from excruciating pain. As she recovers, they find the helmet has somehow healed her eyesight. They also discover no one else can wear the helmet because it is now imprinted with her identity.
Complications ensue when a love triangle forms and leads to major consequences. A geneticist associated with the project also causes problems. As foreign nations become aware of the illegal intrusions and rumor of the finds, they demand access to the project, leading to major political headaches.
The novel focuses on team relationships, the puzzle of alien technology, and motives of the artifact's creators. At times, the broad powers wielded by the project overseer seem impossible. The dedication of the team to solving the many puzzles drives the action, yet accidents lead to many of the project discoveries. The purpose of the metal figure remains unanswered, but it carries powerful weapons.
Waking Gods, a second book in the Themis File series has just been released and is much darker in tone.