You Had Me at ‘Files’
I have a weakness for those works of literature that read as a compilation of files, articles, news reports, interviews…whatever this style might be called. Literary found footage, perhaps? Sylvain Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants, the first book in the ‘The Themis Files’ series slipped itself into my favorites of this category, alongside the likes of The Martian by Andy Weir, and World War Z by Max Brooks.
Something about this style of presentation works with science-fiction, makes it somewhat more tangible. Less like I’m hearing about someone describing a narrative of lasers and robots going pew pew, and more like a first-hand report of some crazy shit that is going down. It lends an investigate atmosphere to the read-through, and I always end up looking for what must be happening between the brief episodes presented. I become just as interested in what I am not seeing as that which is being shown to me. What do the missing files say? Sure, I’ve seen File 127 and 153, but what about 131? And my imagination is left to fill in the blanks with further conspiracies, subplots, and speculation.
However, this subgenre does have its limitations, and they are definitely there in Sleeping Giants. There is a line drawn somewhere in our minds of just how far we can believe that someone is narrating events to oneself out loud. The story does attempt to demonstrate that the situations of auto-narration (I mean, where a character is doing something and describing what is happening) are justified, but it can still scoop me out of the immersion somewhat.
Regardless, I picked the book up and hardly set it down until I finished. All things considered, it is a good story. I felt infected by the curiosity of Dr. Franklin, like I was a part of her team, and each new secret uncovered was a victory for us all, an actual step forward for humankind, for understanding where we came from, or at least where we might go.
The themes are familiar: human action in the face of new technological achievements (weaponize it versus utilize it for the betterment of all). But it does well in making it just fresh enough to be of interest, laying down a solid foundation of questions-yet-to-be-answered for the subsequent pieces in the series.
And let’s talk about that book cover. The hardback edition is gorgeous. That perfect turquoise hue just emanates secret ancient alien technology. Soothing and mystic at the same time. Just peachy.