Cover image of "Waking Gods," a novel about giant robots

Here’s how I began my review of Sleeping Giants, the first novel in the Themis Files series: “Every once in a while you come across a work of fiction so puzzling that you simply can’t put it down. No matter that the story seems not just farfetched but downright silly. The narrative drive, the sheer suspense, keep you turning the pages all the way to the end. If you can’t figure out why, it’s probably that you keep wondering whether the whole thing makes any sense at all. At any rate, that was the experience I had when reading Sleeping Giants by the Canadian author Sylvain Neuvel. This debut sci-fi novel is strong on plotting but weak on plausibility. Hard science fiction it’s not.”

I can’t say that I feel a great deal differently after finishing Waking Gods, the second of the Themis Files novels. All I’d add is that I found the book enormously entertaining. The dialogue, reproduced in a series of transcriptions and documents that together comprise the “Files,” is often funny. Very funny. Author Sylvain Neuvel has a terrific way with dialogue.

Waking Gods (Themis Files #2 of 3) by Sylvain Neuvel ★★★★☆

Years after the conclusion of Sleeping Giants, Waking Gods picks up the story of Themis, the giant alien robot reconstructed by American and Canadian scientists. The United Nations has formed the Earth Defense Corps (EDC) to deploy Themis in the event aliens (or simply more giant robots) attack the Earth. The mysterious, unnamed interviewer of the first novel continues to play the role of intermediary between the scientists and (apparently) the White House. The team of three—Dr. Rose Franklin, Captain Kara Resnik, and Vincent Couture—remain in direct control of Themis.

Dr. Franklin, who discovered the robot as a child, is head of the scientific division of EDC. But she’s not completely convinced that she really IS Rose Franklin, because she died and came back to life four years later with no memory of the time elapsed. (“I don’t know what I am, but I know I’m not . . . her. I’m trying to be. Desperately trying.”) Kara and Vincent, now married, are the robot’s pilots. They appear to be the only people on Earth who can manage the alien controls.

Waking Gods begins with a shock. A 200-foot-tall robot has appeared in the middle of Regent’s Park in London. It looks like Themis, but it’s ten feet taller and radiates a different color. For a long time, the robot simply stands, motionless, while the Earth Defense Corps and the world’s governments debate what to do in response. Send Themis as a good-will gesture? Attack with every weapon at NATO’s disposal? Naturally, when the question is finally resolved, by default, all hell breaks loose—including, of course, a battle between giant robots. You’ll have to read the book to learn just what happens. And if you do, you’ll find yourself surprised, again and again.

Earlier, I reviewed the first book in this trilogy, Sleeping Giants – Themis Files #1 of 3 (An entertaining if puzzling sci-fi novel). And I’ve also reviewed the first book in Neuvel’s newer series, A History of What Comes Next (Take Them to the Stars #1) by Sylvain Neuvel (An alternate history of the space race).

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