The Themis Files: Book Review

The Themis Files isn’t perfect, but with its unique formatting and enthralling story, it is still one of my new favorite science fiction series.
Series Rating: 4.5 Stars

The Themis Files
Sylvain Neuvel
Sleeping Giants: 5 Stars
Waking Gods: 4.5 Stars
Only Human: 4 Stars

Sleeping Giants Synopsis: A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square-shaped hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved – the object’s origins, architects, and purpose unknown.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top-secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the relic they seek. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unravelling history’s most perplexing discovery-and finally figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

I’ve been sitting on my thoughts for the Themis Files for a little over a week now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t properly express half my emotions on this book without getting spoilery. So, let’s get the general non-spoilery bits out first and then dive into the depths of this fantastic science fiction trilogy.

I have a special spot in my heart for alternatively formatted SF stories (I HEART YOU ILLUMINE!) and The Themis Files was destined to be a favorite for the way it tells its story. Pieced together by reports and interview files, the story unfolds in a straight forward manner that you’d think would lack description and emotion. But you would be wrong. Now comes the moment where I HIGHLY recommend reading these books via audiobook. I read Sleeping Giants as a physical book a few years back and absolutely loved it and got all the feels. But I finished the series (after an audio reread of SG) via audio and it was an experience. While the stripped down, interview style of story telling still hit all the right emotional notes, the narrators turn it up to eleven. There are moments of the narration that seared themselves into my soul as I was listening. At one point there is a torture/interview scene that I had to keep pausing because the emotion in the narration were too intense. I fully believe that the emotion in this trilogy still carries in the physical books, but if you are an audiobook person, please read these via audio.

The Themis Files is one of those perfect science fiction books that blends the wonder of discovering the unknown and the humanity of those exploring the new world they find themselves in. The journey of our core cast from start to finish goes beyond what I could have imagined. The examination of racism and what it means to be human becomes a huge part of the narrative and reading this trilogy in this day and age is a bit terrifying.

The characters are the real back bone in this story. We start with Dr. Rose Franklin’s childhood experience of finding a giant metal hand buried in South Dakota. Flash forward 17 years later and the interviews with the Nameless Interrogator begin, as does the unfolding of our story. While I mostly enjoyed the mystery and discovery surrounding the metal hand, there are quite a few characters introduced around the search for more information about the hand. The relationships of the Nameless Interrogator, Rose, and the rest of the team shape the discoveries and how they come about.

As a whole, even with the below discussed spoilery bits that contain my complaints for the trilogy, I really enjoyed this story. Everything about it felt real and immediate and timely. The Themis Files isn’t perfect, but with its unique formatting and enthralling story, it is still one of my favorite SF series.

Now to the spoilery bits.

For the sake of ease, I’m breaking down my spoilers into sections because the spoilers are actually the things that I didn’t like about the last two books.

Waking Gods – The Nameless Interrogator is killed off.  In such a weird way, he was the heart and soul of the story to me and I was shocked when he died. Considering Rose came back to life, I spent the rest of the series waiting for his return, but to no avail. I will say that I absolutely loved the backstory we got on him, but this is one death I will not soon forgive.

Only Human – OMG I cannot stand Eva. CANNOT. My issues with her character are two fold in this book. First, the narrator changed and for some unholy reason she was doing Eva’s voice with a Bronx accent. Um, this character was raised in Puerto Rico and then an alien planet (and none of the humans she was with were from the Bronx). Why? Why would they do this? Her voice grated on me to no end.

And then there was her whole personality. When we meet Eva in Waking Gods, she is a frightened but curious 9-year-old who is dealing with horrifying vision tied to the alien robots. In Only Human, she is a whiney teenager who wants to hang out with the people (aliens) her dad doesn’t want her associating with. It just…it gets old real fast. I think there was also just a huge disconnect for me because a lot of Only Human is about the father/daughter relationship between Eva and Vincent. My father left me before I was 1 year old, so I have zero understanding of that kind of the father/daughter dynamic. When it’s a side dynamic it doesn’t bother me too much, but when it’s a huge aspect of the plot, I get lost.

My other issue with Only Human was it felt like it took the story away from Rose. Rose has always been the focal point of the story for me and even Vincent says in the story that it was always about Rose. But she almost felt like a throw away character for so much of this final book and that really disappointed me.

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