Sylvain Neuvel (Podcast Interview Here)
eBook, Hardback, Audiobook
April 4, 2017
A Preston Leigh Book Review
I must start out this review by saying that Sylvain Neuvel’s publisher, Del Rey, sent me an advanced reader’s copy of the book and the audiobook. In no way will this influence my review, as you will read.
As you have probably have heard me mention several times, Sleeping Giants is my Book Of The Year for 2016. I could not recommend that book enough. In short, that book really stuck with me and it is easily one of my Top 5 Books Of All Time.
Needless to say, my expectations for Wakings Gods were set very very. . .very high. How high? I expected Waking Gods to be my Book Of The Year for 2017 and the final, yet to be named, Book 3 to be my Book Of The Year for 2018. I know, really high expectations. But based on the storyline and the style of writing with Sleeping Giants, that did not seem unrealistic of me.
One of the things that really caught my eye with Sleeping Giants was the cover. There was the square cutout on the dust jacket with art printed on the actual hardback book. I am so happy they did that again with Waking Gods, but instead of a square cutout they did a triangle one. The color scheme is different, Waking Gods having a yellow theme to it while Sleeping Giants was turquoise. The artwork below the dust jacket is beautiful. I do wish they would have put more artwork on the back of the actual book, just like for Sleeping Giants, but they did not. There are stars there, but no robot artwork.
Unfortunately, I do not believe that Waking Gods will be my Book Of The Year for 2017. Don’t get me wrong: it is a very good story. But it didn’t wow me like Sleeping Giants did.
Waking Gods does not pick up right where Sleeping Giants ended. It actually starts nine years after the events of Sleeping Giants, but most of the book takes place ten years after Sleeping Giants.
As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.
Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.
Waking Gods suffers from what I am going to call the Ernest Cline syndrome. Ernest Cline made a huge splash with Ready Player One and the bar he set with that book was very high. Many people, including myself, expected another book of that caliber. Some will argue he succeeded and others will say he failed with his next book Armada. Sleeping Giants was Sylvain Neuvel’s debut and he made a huge splash with it. The movie rights were actually bought before the story rights were picked up. But how do you follow up a story like that? How can you meet the expectations you set with book one? It is a monumental and scary task.
Waking Gods is told in the same format as Sleeping Giants, mainly interviews and transcripts. One thing Neuvel did more this time was having more than the two people speaking in a chapter, but he does a great job of making it easy to following along with who is speaking.
This format is what really makes this series stand out among all the other stories out there. Before Sleeping Giants, I had never read anything like this. I know there are other books out there that might be written in the same format, but I had not read them and this style was new to me. It was exciting. Fun. I could not stop reading. For about thirty-six hours I ate, slept, and drank Sleeping Giants.
The audiobook for Waking Gods is amazing. I’d venture to say that it is actually better than the audiobook of Sleeping Giants. There are parts of the story when characters are talking to each other through a walkie-talkie (do people still say that or do they just say radio?). During these parts in the audio version, there is an added effect so the person sounds like they are talking through a walkie-talkie.
As I read and listened to the story, I realized that I prefered to listen to Waking Gods. It is a good story, it just isn’t great. I didn’t always feel like I needed to read what was coming next. I didn’t always feel like I needed to find reasons to read or to take reading breaks at work while other people took smoke breaks. There were times when I actually decided that playing a game on the Playstation sounded more fun. Now there were times I needed to know what happened next, but more times than not, I was ok if I could only read one chapter during the day.
There are some moments that did make me drop my jaw and want to throw the book. Not because it was bad, but because Neuvel did something that I didn’t think he would do. I wish I could mention them but they would be major spoilers.
That is one thing that I have enjoyed with this series so far: it is not predictable. Neuvel has always done a great job with the twists in his stories. There are two major instances during Waking Gods where this happened, and I actually emailed him about them. One of them was explained a little later in the book, but they were major enough that I needed to let him know what I thought.
Waking Gods at times felt too long. I don’t know why, but it kind of felt like it could have been a novella instead of a novel.
Overall, if you enjoyed Sleeping Giants and want to know where the story is going next, pick up Waking Gods. Don’t do what I did, don’t set the bar so high that no matter what Neuvel wrote, it wouldn’t be good enough. The story is good and I believe it is setting up an explosive end to the series. I have no idea where he is going to go with the story. Book 3 will definitely be a surprise to me and I can’t wait to read it when it comes out in 2018.