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Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
Book Name: Waking Gods
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Publisher(s): Del Rey (US) Penguin (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Release Date: April 4, 2017 (US) April 6, 2017 (UK)

Spoiler Warning: This review contains spoilers for book one. Please read with caution if you have yet to finish Sleeping Giant.

Waking Gods (US cover)Waking Gods is the sequel to Sleeping Giants, which established a world where a gigantic robot named Themis had been found, put together and stocked with two special pilots under the guidance of the person who discovered her – Dr Rose Franklin. (Our Overlord, Marc Aplin, wrote a fantastic and very thorough review upon its release and I urge you to check it out.) Our all-knowing mystery man is back conducting his interviews, Kara and Vincent our pilots are still trying to decipher the secrets of Themis’ movement and weapons system, and all of a sudden – another robot appears.

It’s giant fighting robot time, people. I’m thinking a lot of you may probably stop reading right now, having heard everything you need to hear to know that this one is going to be right up your alley. For those whose tastes are not entirely covered by the phrase ‘giant fighting robots’, read on.

So, the giant fighting robot appears out of thin air in a football stadium in London, and whilst it does not seem to be aggressive the options don’t seem particularly attractive. The appearance allows us to see the myriad of human responses, from complete disdain to recognition that whatever happens will happen, to a family eating a picnic at its feet, and finally to those that want to try and take a shot at it just to see what might happen. For the higher ups in London, a show of strength could be seen as a sign of hostility, and when deciding how to act they will naturally want to prioritise the safety of London. But this is a worldwide event.

The story of Waking Gods is once again told though transcriptions of both face to face and phone interviews, journal entries, press releases and the odd eyewitness account. It’s a format that is growing in popularity, but here it seems to be done particularly well; the flow of information manages to be incredibly efficient without ever seeming impersonal. The journal entries are our window into the souls of our characters.

The characters are brilliant and are really what make this a special series. The interviewer/man in black is a real favourite. In the first book his knowledge and power made him seem omnipotent; he had more to say in the decision making process than the President, and he was seemingly able to manipulate his way into or out of any situation. Towards the end, though, his own limitations started to show. Control began to slip through his fingers, and because of this he became slightly more humanised. This continues in Waking Gods. Not only do we see him struggle with the intellectual and alien nature of the events surrounding him, but we even get something of an origin story. This makes him so much more relatable, and was a big highlight for me in terms of the arc of this series.

Waking Gods (uk cover)Dr Rose Franklin is back from the dead, and is four years younger than when she passed away – raising some very interesting questions. Meanwhile, Alyssa the fanatical Russian scientist is winning my award for the vilest and most despicable character in a sci-fi book, and Rick still wants to be the hero. The grizzled General Eugene is growing on me more and more in his role of a man who has seen so much death he will avoid it (as a man in his position always should), and Kara and Vincent are becoming more of a team. We learn so much more about the personal relationships between the core cast that it’s impossible to not feel worried when the giant fighting robots start displaying some of their devastating weaponry.

That’s about as much as I can mention without getting into some serious spoilers.

The Themis Files has to be one of the best science fiction series I’ve ever read. Waking Gods manages to be hugely fun due to a devastatingly clever protagonist, sharp writing, and superbly constructed fantastical moments that affect the entire world as we know it. It also, like its predecessor, contains some incredibly shocking and unexpected moments that will rock any reader and totally shatter their expectations of where the book is heading. A final hats off to the covers designers of both the UK and US editions, which are both spectacularly beautiful.

Get this series. Now.

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