My rating: 4.7 out of 5
This is a fun and interesting book, both in the thematic sense and also in the storytelling style. It’s a relatively short sci-fi techno-thriller with what I think has a slight “youthy” feel, but I see this as a good thing, making it accessible to a wider audience of readers. I’d have loved this as a teenage reader just as much as I did as an “older” one. It’s a book that you could give to many readers because it contains solid tropes from the sci-fi genre as well as the fast action entertainment of a thriller. They all mix together rather nicely into a very entertaining story.
Neuvel dispenses altogether with a traditional narrative by telling the story by a chronological sequence of files which are mostly transcripts of interviews with key characters or news bulletins about events relevant to the story. Central to this is the interviewer, a mysterious nameless person who is leading efforts to recover parts of an ancient artifact which are buried in various parts Earth, a “robot” which is apparently thousands of years old. You’re constantly wondering who this person really is and who he (I think it’s a “he”) works for. How is it that he has access to such limitless resources? And how come he appears to have the ear of high ranking officials like the President? These questions, and others are not really answered as the story unfolds, but since this is a series I assume that things will be revealed in due course. The interviewer’s character is excellent and I enjoyed him a lot. He’s usually cold and manipulative, using anything and everything at his disposal to fulfil his mission yet he also demonstrates some subtle humor at times within his curt and efficient words. Along with the narrative format, this character is the book’s best facet.
The other characters are also good, none of whom I felt any true empathy with, yet they were real enough and appropriate for the story. Their psyches flowed from the pages easily and this demonstrates to me Neuvel’s skill as a writer. To clarify, I’m a reader who often doesn’t feel much connection with characters unless they are particularly relevant to me, yet this lot interested me quite sufficiently. Again, it’s probably the format of the narrative that lends itself to a brutally honest exposé of their personalities. Let’s call this the book’s second best facet.
While the story itself didn’t “blow me away” as such (although I’ve heard rumors that the second book ramps things up a bit) it was a hoot to read because it trots along at a rapid pace in true thriller style. Laid down in chronological order, it is very easy to follow and because Neuvel’s writing flows well, I didn’t need to backtrack to pick up the story after losing the scent, not even once. Yet again, I attribute this to the concise format.
Because it’s a short novel, I found myself reaching the end all too quickly and scrambling to get my hands on book two, helped by the ending itself being a bit of a plot-twisting cliff-hanger. It’s all good stuff and all of the elements combine into a wonderfully entertaining novel that is sure to please any reader who is interested by the synopsis.
In summary, I’d certainly have to agree with the vast majority of readers and reviewers in saying that this is a fine new novel from a promising writing talent. I’d be surprised if Hollywood hasn’t already noticed it because it’s got action movie written all over it. I’d also wager that Sylvain Neuvel is probably going to do alright out of this. Well, he deserves it for producing such an entertaining story. I’m now going to hop straight into book two of the series Waking Gods because I’m not ready to pause the story just yet, I’m having too much fun.
4/5 for concept
5/5 for delivery
5/5 for entertainment