A brazen fusion of science fiction and apocalyptic thriller, the second installment in Neuvel’s Themis Files (Sleeping Giants, 2016) is powered by nonstop action and adventure involving alien invaders and an army of seemingly indestructible giant robots—but ultimately it’s also a deeply character-driven exploration of what it means to be human.
After finding alien artifacts that turned out to be pieces of a colossal, vaguely human-looking robot, physicist Rose Franklin and other members of the newly formed Earth Defense Corps have been relentlessly studying the advanced technology that runs the structure. Army pilot Kara Resnik and Quebecois linguist Vincent Couture have made great strides in deciphering the alien symbols and can now move the robot (named Themis) with some level of skill. Scientists theorize that Themis was left on Earth to protect humankind from future invasion, but when giant robots begin appearing all over the world and exterminating humans by the millions, Franklin and company are forced to try to understand the motives behind the mass slaughter before it’s too late. The reason this audacious story works so well is because the author blends the intellectual tone and thematic depth of classic SF works like Frederik Pohl’s Gateway (which deals with humans trying to unlock advanced alien technology) with the B-movie campiness and childlike sense of wonder associated with piloting a 20-story-tall metallic giant. Additionally, the ensemble cast is impressively authentic—they're not just two-dimensional, contrived plot devices. The depth of character development mirrors the complexity of the storyline, which is filled with numerous bombshell plot twists. And although the end is more than satisfying, Neuvel offers a glimpse into the next series installment, which promises to be even more enthralling.
Pure, unadulterated literary escapism featuring giant killer robots and the looming end of humankind. In a word: unputdownable.