Reading Matters 2

POSTED: September 14, 2021

I have just finished Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. This books counts as the first of an already completed trilogy, known collectively as The Themis Files. You may most definitely count this trilogy as science fiction.

The novel has several interesting features, most noticeably the narrative device it uses. Like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the whole novel consist of letters, or almost. Since it takes place in the present the “letters” take the form of “files” of various kinds: File 003 Interview with Dr Rose Franklin, PhD, Senior Scientist, Enrico Fermi Institute, and so on. The whole novel, then, does the exact opposite of “show don’t tell”.

The second interesting feature stems directly from this. Since most of the “files” constitute interviews, we have the voice of the interviewer, who remains anonymous throughout the novel. Far from remaining a kind of Greek chorus, the interviewer seems to control the plot in many ways: providing deus ex machina as required, and offering information that the characters (and the reader) would otherwise not possess.

Far from defeating the purpose of the novel, which proves in the end to have moral rather than physical concerns, or deflating the narrative tension, the anonymous controller works to heighten both focus and interest.

I have now ordered Waking Gods, the second volume, from the library. Let us see if the premise holds up.