On paper Sylvain Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants was brilliant. In execution, not so much. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where it went wrong, but it just felt somehow lacking. The book centres around the discovery of a large hand after a young girl falls into a hole and is found nestled in its palm. It follows the process of recovering the rest of the body parts, covering the politics of ownership and the history of the figure itself.
Epistolary style is difficult for even the most talented of writers. Neuvel has a strong basis for its use, but it didn’t read as realistic. With the exception of a very few, the documents were primarily a collection of transcribed interviews by a shadowy protagonist who seems to be the puppet master of the piece. The way he speaks however simply isn’t natural or realistic. He asks questions to further the plot and develop character, but they are questions which simply wouldn’t be relevant or realistic in that particular context. Why would he be asking about personal relationships rather than say, a psychologist?
Despite these unrealistically probing questions attempting to create a sense of character, it was not particularly effective in this. The characters of the scientists and pilots involved in the recovery operations and subsequent study of the mysterious figure were shallow and two dimensional. I felt no sense of kinship, interest or empathy with any of them. The only character I had any strong feeling toward was a scientist whom I assume was meant to act as the antagonist, but this was simply because the way she was written was so utterly annoying that I didn’t like reading about her. Her inclusion in the project at the later stages defied logic. She was almost a caricature of an evil scientist.
I still enjoyed this novel, because conceptually it was brilliant. I just really wanted more out of it. I’ll read the rest of the series when it’s released because I can see a lot of potential in this book. Let’s hope book two is a bit more polished and believable than this instalment.