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When Rose Franklin sneaks out to ride her bike, she finds herself unexpectedly at the bottom of what appears to be a deep well, except the walls of the well are not brick, rather they glow with strange inscriptions and she is not resting on either dirt or water, but a giant hand which predates human civilisation...
Sleeping Giants (2016. 304 pages) is the debut science fiction novel from Sylvain Neuvel. According to his web site ‘The movie rights for Sleeping Giants have been optioned by Sony. David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Spider-Man and Mission Impossible) is writing the script. Josh Bratman and Matt Tolmach are producing’. Having read the book I can see why.
I wrote in an earlier review that new authors sometimes make the mistake of adding too many stylistic flourishes to their novel, presumably on the basis that the more complicated something is to read the better it is, when in fact it just makes the book more difficult to read. Thankfully Neuvel has not done this but he has taken the decision to present his whole narrative as a series of written and recorded reports with the occasional journal entry.
The reports really begin when Rose has grown up and is placed in charge of a project to discover just what the hand is and what the symbols on the walls which contained it meant. Straight away the object is anomalous, from the fact that it weighs far less than it should to its propensity for bring down helicopters. Suffice it to say that Rose and her team not only make headway on the hand, but also discover that it is just one part of a whole twenty stories high machine. What that means to the world, including who placed it on Earth becomes the main part of the plot.
Each of the interview is conducted by an unnamed male, at the beginning of the story you're given the impression, mostly by his reported threats, that at the heart of this nameless bureaucrat is the stone cold heart of a killer. It is only through the developing narrative that we get to realise that he is a more rounded character. As characters are added to Rose's team we meet and follow them through the reports.
There is one thing that remains odd about the way that the story is presented and that is the missing reports. For instance File 129 is followed by File 141, which in turn is followed by 143. Some gaps are bigger than others, but the book provides no explanation as to why a portion of the evidence is missing. On the other hand this is the first in a series and it would be extremely clever of Neuvel if the missing part formed book two giving us a parallel story rather than just a sequel.
I was impressed with the book. The author has taken a specific stylistic approach but not forgotten to develop both the plot and his characters. As each character speaks with their own voice in answer to the enigmatic interrogator, this let their personalities shine through and develop.
Neuvel is mindful of the effect on global politics of introducing something which could radically change the balance of power in the world, and how an object of curiosity could quickly turn into a reason to start a war.
Overall a very good start to the series, I look forward to seeing how the whole plot plays out.