Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel, Review by Corinne Donnelly
Interview format seems to be the current trend in science fiction novels. Sylvain Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants begins as a traditional narrative, but by the second chapter it devolves into a series of interviews, diary entries, and reports. Nontraditional methods of story-telling can be done well, but they usually require unique plot-lines and strong characters. Unfortunately, the novel is burdened by stereotypes, a plot and chosen structure too mismatched to make sense, and above all, a far too clinical atmosphere.
The five main characters can easily be fit into predictable molds. Dr. Rose Franklin represents the friendly, motherly type, while Kara acts as her alter-ego in her rebelliousness, sarcasm, and ‘devil may care’ attitude. Ryan, Kara’s co-pilot, is suave, handsome, and boring as all get-out, while Victor possesses an exceedingly high level of arrogance (he’s French, surprise!). The “handler,” who is never named, is the only wild card in the equation, but while he is supposed to be mysterious, his extreme opinions cast him in an overtly evil light. Such blatant use of stereotypes delivers cookie-cutter plots that quickly lose a reader’s interest.
Interviews are naturally very clinical, so when a reader never encounters a character outside of that format, he or she often struggles to invest in that character’s arc. Character growth is also extremely difficult to discern when a reader cannot delve into internal thought processes. Jumping from one interview to another with little regard for differentiation between who was speaking to whom complicates matters even further.
When a novel lacks strong characters, you hope that the story is at least entertaining. A mysterious plot thread runs through the narrative, but its nature and purpose, while studied ad nauseam, is never fully fleshed out. Each revelation comes too quickly and if explained at all, is presented on an incredibly basic level. To add insult to injury, the novel ends on a cliff-hanger of epic proportions.
For a highly praised newly released science fiction novel, Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel left me surprisingly underwhelmed. Despite its abrupt ending and a promise of more books to come, I never felt the desire to continue the series. Honestly, I think this novel would have been far better presented as a film, and I would not be surprised if it has already been picked up by a studio.