Last year, I went to San Diego Comic Con. SDCC is a mecca for the speculative fiction fan—major studios and distributors attend, pushing their new big movies and television shows of the year. Comic book creators, artists, and writers are also in abundance, selling and autographing their wares. And then…there are the book people. Book publishers don’t take up much space at SDCC; I’ve noticed over the years that the book publishing parts of the con are becoming increasingly smaller with every year, and the number of early ARCs available are minimal.
However. I was lucky enough to snag one highly coveted ARC last year at SDCC—a novel that has become one of the big celebrated SFF novels of the spring.
That book, of course, is Sleeping Giants by Sylvan Neuvel.
From Gizmodo, to NPR, to Tor.com, to Kirkus, Sleeping Giants has been almost universally well-received. (We book smugglers have differing opinions—but that’s a topic for a different column.) The premise of the book is irresistible: a young girl is riding her bike in the woods when the ground gives way beneath her, and she finds herself resting in the palm of a giant metal hand. Talk about a huge Establishing Moment, in which we readers immediately dig in for some giant robots from outer space action! There are pieces of this giant mech scattered across the globe, and, through an epistolary narrative that cobbles together a series of interviews and voices, Sleeping Giants tells the story of the people who are trying to gather the pieces and make them work. Sounds cool, right?
Regardless of whether or not you enjoyed Sleeping Giants, one thing I think we can all agree on is that Giants + Robots = AWESOME, YES PLEASE, I’D LIKE SOME MORE. This column isn’t a proper review of Sleeping Giants; it’s a list of the other Giant and Robot (and even some Giant Robot) books, both domestic and extra-terrestrial, that we smugglers love.
Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero by Travis Beacham & Sean Chen. A graphic novel detailing the original Kaiju that emerged from the intergalactic breach, and the Jaegers—and human Jaeger pilots—who fought them. These giant robots are of human creation—and they are awesome. (Yes, the physics are ridiculous—but the story and conceit are so fun.)
Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson. A novel about the inevitable future in which the machines will rise up against their human progenitors, this isn't a mecha/giant robot story, but it is a novel about some very evolved tech. And it’s a lot of fun, spanning years and narratives in a way that should appeal to fans of Sleeping Giants. (Bonus: there's a sequel, titled Robogenesis, and a film adaptation with Steven Spielberg at the helm in the works at some point in the future.)
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It is the future and the real world sucks—polluted, overcrowded, and on the verge of economic and ecological collapse. Luckily, there's a sweet virtual world to distract people from the horrors of their regular lives! When the obscenely rich creator of this world, OASIS, dies, he leaves his users a scavenger hunt to rival all other such hunts—only the nerdiest, most badass users fluent in 1980s pop culture and video games can prevail. Yes, there's a showdown that involves mecha suits—the ultimate giant-robot-piloted-by-a-human smackdown. (Bonus: Steven Spielberg is directing the film, which is slated to drop later this year!)
Girl Genius by Phil and Kasja Foglio. A steampunky webcomic that has since been turned into serialized graphic novels and prose fiction, Girl Genius follows the adventures of the eponymous girl genius, Agatha Heterodyne. A wiz at putting together and dismantling clockwork tech, Agatha’s adventures take her aboard floating cloud cities, fighting mechanized armies, and, of course, includes a copious dose of giant fighting robots.
Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama. There are many anime and manga that can fall into the “giant fighting robot” category (mecha has been a subgenre for a long time and there’s a huge amount of great material in the category--from Gundam to Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagan). But when I put this list together, one particular manga story stood above the others--and it’s not mecha. I only just got into Attack on Titan this year, and devoured it whole (pun intended) in a few short weeks. This series combines elements of many things that should have been so enthralling in Sleeping Giants. The premise is this: on a planet in the future, human colonizer a have arrived. They found three concentric walls of impossible height (100m) and sturdy build, but they didn't know why these walls existed (or who built them). These humans find out WHY they were built, though, as the planet is full of Titans: humanoid Giants who do not require food but who for some reason are drawn to devour humans, and only humans, whole. No one knows where the Titans came from, why they exist, or how they exist (they don’t have internal organs, they don’t seem to have any communication skills or intelligence). All we know is that humanity must guard the three walls that protect their cities in order to ensure survival. There is a huge amount of action, dark secrets, huge twists, and personal vendettas aplenty in this series. No traditional robots in this one, but... well, I don't want to spoil it. Trust me: check it out. (Bonus: the anime series is available on Netflix right now, and season 2 should be arriving this summer.)
And that is it! Our list of recommended reading for fans of giants and robots, a la Sleeping Giants. What titles have we missed, or are on your list?