Newest review: Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

By Ekta R. Garg

April 5, 2017

Genre: Science fiction

Rated: Binge it!

Ten years after scientists discover a giant robot on Earth, the world must deal with a second robot that appears without warning. Unlike the first robot, however, the second one exhibits malicious intentions. The scientists who found the first robot will have to use every resource at their disposal to stop the new evil visitor before every person succumbs. Author Sylvain Neuvel continues the thrilling story of Themis with aplomb in the second novel of the Themis Files series called Waking Gods.

It’s been a decade since scientist Rose Franklin and her team excavated and assembled the mysterious pieces of metal that turned into the robot she named Themis. The world has become complacent about Themis in that time. Since her appearance, nothing terrible has happened and Themis seems more like a fascinating scientific oddity than anything else.

So when another robot just appears one morning in London, residents of that city as well as others think Themis’s “family” may finally be joining her. Rose doesn’t know what to think about the new robot. As a scientist she’s intrigued, but an unnamed government source told Rose that Themis wouldn’t be the only one to visit. Nor would the other robots necessarily be as benign as Themis.

The prediction becomes truth when the second robot in London emits a deadly gas and kills thousands. Before anyone can formulate a plan, robots begin arriving in other cities. They, too, begin emitting deadly gasses.

The citizens of the world are under attack.

Not everyone dies, however, and Rose races to find out why. The survivors don’t seem to have any connection to one another. Why do they get to live?

Along with all this, Rose deals with her own insecurities about her abilities. Years earlier she was found after an accident in which she supposedly died. When she wakes up, four years have passed and she questions everything she knows about herself and her life.

It doesn’t help that Kara and Vincent, the cracker jack team of scientists who actually pilot Themis, also treat Rose like a delicate vase. They want to restore the friendship the three shared, but they’re not sure how to go about doing that. With the progression of world events, however, Rose, Kara, Vincent, and all the others involved may not get the time they want to sort through their personal challenges.

Author Sylvain Neuvel brings back his flair and innovative storytelling method for the second book in the Themis Files series. Once again Neuvel doesn’t stick to a conventional narration. Like Sleeping Giants, its predecessor, Waking Gods reads like a collection of files recovered from some sort of aftermath. With the events in Waking Gods, the overall concept for Neuvel’s story world becomes more clear and more opaque all at the same time.

Neuvel spends more time sharing the characters’ lives in this book, which sets it apart from the first novel. In particular readers will find out more about the unnamed government source who Rose and others have turned to time and again for access to information and other resources. Like the characters, readers will find themselves in turns delighted and frustrated by him.

The frustration is purely by Neuvel’s design, though, which is what makes this such a fantastic read. Nothing is out of place in the book in terms of pacing or character development, and readers will most likely finish it wishing they already had the third book on hand. Current world events sometimes suggest the kind of society Neuvel proposes, which makes his books timely, frightening, and necessary escapist reading all in one.

Fans of the first book will find everything they love about Themis, Rose, and the others in this second story. I recommend readers Binge read Waking Gods!

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