Only Human

Themis Files #3
by Sylvain Neuvel

I can’t believe we’re already at the end of such a thunderous trilogy. The Themis Files swept me off my feet from the first page of book one, and kept me begging for more until the very end. Only Human is a fantastic finale to an already strong series, and while I’m sad to see it end, it was definitely the epic conclusion the Themis Files deserved.




In her childhood, Rose Franklin accidentally discovered a giant metal hand buried beneath the ground outside Deadwood, South Dakota. As an adult, Dr. Rose Franklin led the team that uncovered the rest of the body parts which together form Themis: a powerful robot of mysterious alien origin. She, along with linguist Vincent, pilot Kara, and the unnamed Interviewer, protected the Earth from geopolitical conflict and alien invasion alike. Now, after nearly ten years on another world, Rose returns to find her old alliances forfeit and the planet in shambles. And she must pick up the pieces of the Earth Defense Corps as her own friends turn against each other.


Once again, nine years have passed between this book and the last. While I found this temporal jump unsettling when reading Waking Gods, it was even more shocking when reading Only Human because of just how much had changed: humanity has lost its mind. The robot our motley crew defeated at the end of the last book has been taken over by the US, who have been using to, well, take over the world. Just as Rose and Vincent predicted, with an unbeatable robot in the hands of a single government, the world is falling to its knees. To top it all off, the discovery of alien DNA in the population has led to widespread segregation across the planet, including work camps and executions. Countries are using the genetic code to crack down on their undesirables – a thinly veiled allegory to what could happen to us if we allowed our genetic differences to divide us. Sound familiar?

And while the Earth has been growing more insane, Rose, Vincent, Eva and General Govender have been trying to adapt to life on the Alien world of Esat Ekt. Here the author demonstrates a fantastic job of worldbuilding, as he creates a massive society so different from ours. It reads almost like a thought experiment, seeing what would happen to a society so afraid of stepping on its own toes that it never accomplishes anything. It was also an interesting change having two different time periods running concurrently through the book: life on Esat Ekt alternating with life back on earth, after the team returns.

I absolutely loved the character building. Eva and Vincent’s relationship grew perfectly in this last installment. It was fantastic seeing them try to learn to live as a family, see them butt heads, see them end up on opposing sides. Eva has to be my favorite character here: while I miss Kara, she makes up for her departure with a familiar snark. Seeing Vincent wanting nothing more than to go home, while Eva put down roots, made me relate to Eva even more: third culture kids, children of expats, we recognize each other everywhere.

If I did have some qualms, it would be with how certain parts felt a little rushed. I realize the author was trying to show how slowly things moved on Esat Ekt, but at times it felt too slow: they lived on that planet for almost a decade, but it read like the course of a year. And the ending was a little… I don’t think Deus Ex Machina has ever been such an accurate term. It was a little too perfect, to the point I could easily imagine that Vincent or Rose died and imagined the entire thing. But maybe it’s because I’m not used to happy endings!

Rose’s growth was incredible; Vincent’s mental anguish was palpable; Eva’s determination and will made her a force to be reconned with. Other characters grew a lot over the past 18 years of this series, as well, and I was happy to see them almost redeemed at the end. All in all, a fitting conclusion to a fantastic series. Not to mention it was impossible to put down. I sure hope Neuvel has more planned for us in the future, despite the trilogy ending!

Expected publication: May 1st, 2018 by Del Rey Books

Sleeping Giants

by Sylvain Neuvel
Reviewed by SA

Those who know me know that I NEED good science fiction in my life. I need a story that pushes the limits of modern day thinking and make us dream about the possibilities the universe has to offer. When I saw that this novel was compared to The Martian, one of my all time favorite books, I jumped at it, and was no disappointed: Sleeping Giants is a fun, intriguing, fascinating novel that had me hooked from the very first page.


17 years ago: A girl in South Dakota falls through the earth, then wakes up dozens of feet below ground on the palm of what seems to be a giant metal hand. Today: She is a top-level physicist leading a team of people to understand exactly what that hand is, where it came from, and what it portends for humanity. A swift and spellbinding tale told almost exclusively through transcriptions of interviews conducted by a mysterious and unnamed character, this is a unique debut that describes a hunt for truth, power, and giant body parts.

When a second body part is found almost twenty years later, a team is assembled to figure out exactly what these giant pieces are for, and what on earth it all could possibly mean. A team is assembled, comprised of a physicist, a pair of pilots, a linguist, and a biologist; pieced together by a mysterious, nameless figure who seems to have more power than we could ever possibly know…

Rather than using the usual novel format, the story is told through a collection of oral journal entires, and interviews with the nameless figure. This makes it somewhat complicated to connect with the characters, as everything we know about them is given through dialogue, so there is no direct connection with any of them.

However, this is definitely not a problem: the plot is so compelling, you’re hooked either way. It was a fascinating story from start to finish, with the characters throwing out hypothesis over what this giant could possibly be about as fast as you could. There were twists and turns, some awful moments that make you cringe, some exciting events that make you grip the novel so tight your hands will hurt.

It’s sciency, but not science heavy: perfect for geeks like me, and lovers of robots of all ages. The interview format gives it all a sense of realism, without going too deep into scientific explanations that would have scientist groaning. Instead, there is a lot of speculation, coupled with recent discoveries based on the scientific method.

And it’s rather beautiful, actually. Myths and legend play an important role towards the end, and it’s rather gorgeous how they intertwine with history. Somehow, a novel about a giant buried in pieces across earth manages to be delicate and profound. It’s possibly one of the best science fiction novels I have read in ages, and I’m adding it to my list of favorite books.

For fans of science fiction and myths, this book is gripping and beautiful. Too bad you have to wait until April 26th to read it! Published by Random House.

Also, isn’t that cover just gorgeous?