Let me begin by stating: I *adore* epistolary novels. Epistolary novels are those written as a series of documents. Some of my favorites include The Illuminae Files (Illuminae and Gemina) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. One of the most famous epistolary novels you might have read is Dracula by Bram Stoker. Traditionally, these are novels composed entirely of letters. But some, such as The Illuminae Files, use a combination of different documents. In our modern world, it’s hard to ignore text messages, email communications, and postings online as part of the documents which compose our lives. In Sleeping Giants we are treated to something similar; a collection of documents which describe the discovery and scientific exploration of the first alien artifacts on Earth.
I was smart enough to know it was wrong, but not brave enough to stop them.
As epistolary novels go, this is a unique one. The oral history of the discovery of the alien artifacts is unveiled to the reader through a series of chronological personal journal entries, mission logs, news reports, interviews, official military reports, and interview transcripts. While the characters of our story are diverse and easily distinguished, our possible narrator is not. An unnamed, cryptic, emotional-intelligence deprived gentleman conducts the majority of the interviews. It seems to the reader as though he is the one collecting these documents and telling our story– but it is never really clear if this is the case or not.
The mystery of the alien artifacts is only one piece of a hugely compelling story. We explore the psyches of all the characters, sans our unnamed one, as the story unfolds. Through the unique combination of documents, we get to explore the characters minds while simultaneously viewing them from the outside. What we are left with is a really intriguing exploration of humanity; watching them interact with the unknown for the first time. From the world-famous physicist who is on a task to discover the purpose and use of these artifacts while preserving her crew, to the army pilots who need to learn how to fly them, to the linguist who needs to make sense of the alien symbols– we have an intimate view of a story which is pushing mankind to their limits. Even though Neuvel doesn’t shy away from ethical dilemmas and metaphysical ideas, the content is consistently approachable from the perspective of these characters.
“Yes. This, all that’s happening now, this is your bat mitzvah. You can play with atomsd, you can sit with the grown-ups.”
“What does that mean for us?”
“That means you won’t be forgiven for childhood mistakes anymore.”
As the rest of the world discovers what the United States is up to (that is, locating and consolidating alien artifacts from all over the world which seem to capable of incredible destructive power), paranoia and fear begin to escalate. Quickly the original science experiment becomes an international incident putting the world on the brink of war. By bringing these international elements into play, Neuvel suddenly has developed a science-fiction thriller.
Reading this, I was challenged to attempt to answer so many questions. What would it mean if alien artifacts were discovered on Earth? How would that affect global politics? What would the impact be on the individuals who handled them? What would such discoveries do to propel science? Religion? Are there really aliens out there waiting for us? Are they friend or foe? And is this whole discovery worth it?
It’s easier to be just one more solider in a giant army than being the whole army by yourself.
When I finally closed Sleeping Giants, I immediately craved more. This sci-fi thriller pulled me in without me even noticing. I am captivated by the plot, the themes, and the characters– in particular our unnamed narrator. I cannot wait to begin book two!
What do you think?
- Have you read Sleeping Giants? What do you think of this book? Are you adding this to your TBR?
- Do you enjoy epistolary novels? What are your favorites?
- What are other science fiction novels which have caught your attention lately?