A young girl falls through the earth and lands cradled in a giant metallic hand. Seventeen years later, that woman is now a brilliant physicist leading a research team to discover the mystery behind the discovery. When they find another body part buried in another area of the world, there’s a new goal: to reconstruct.
I really enjoyed this. It’s written as a series of interviews, similar to World War Z, except the interviews take place as the story progresses rather than looking back afterwards. Some chapters are solo journal entries or radio recordings, but most are interviews conducted by a mysterious, unnamed man who oversees the entire project. I’ve always been a fan of the epistolary format, so this was perfect for me, and I thought Sylvain Neuvel really brought the characters to life in those chapters.
The success of a novel like this is to keep the reader guessing while not keeping everything from them, and the balance here was just right for me. I wanted to know more, but it still felt as though I was learning with the research team, and the pace felt very natural. It was smart to mix interviews with the occasional journal and recorded radio call, as it let Neuvel interject some action into the story. Instead of everything being explained just after the event, the reader still gets to be present during some of the more exciting moments.
In a way, this felt more like classic science fiction, where the central plot device is more of a background to the human stories it affects. John Wyndham did this a lot. The Day of the Triffids isn’t really about the Triffids or the meteor shower, but rather the effects those had on society. In The Kraken Wakes, there’s only one scene that actually features the invading aliens, and the rest of the book is how the world, specifically the two protagonists, deal with the long-term threat.
This was structured similarly. When giant robots are mentioned, I think for most people that conjures up images of epic battles that leave cities in rubble, and there’s not much of that action in this. This is much more a personal story of the team working on this project than it is a story about giant robots, but it feels like the sequel (out in April) could be quite different, as the story hinted at big things to come. It can be a bit disappointing when none of those big things come to fruition in the book you’re actually reading, as it makes this all feel a bit like a first act, but I actually usually enjoy the personal side of science fiction more than the action anyway, so it works for me.
I listened to this on audiobook, and I thought the narrators were great. It’s read with a full cast, which works really well with the interview and journal format. It’s a fun novel, and I’m interested to see what happens in the next book.