Sleeping Giants – Sylvain Neuvel (audio)

I read this book (via Netgalley) last year, and seized on the audiobook as soon as possible. And listening to it after November 8 was a very different experience from reading it in early 2016. Ah, I thought, that’s why a certain person wants to block all refugees from Syria – he must have read this book and the suspicion that Syria is working on a nuclear program. (Well, the rumor is he can’t read, so he must have listened to the audiobook.)

But this isn’t going to be a politically-oriented review. The rest of it, I mean.

I loved everything about Sleeping Giants every bit as much this go-round as I did the first time – maybe even a little more, if that’s possible, because the cast was excellent. The funny moments were given that extra little nuance – “Don’t go! I’ll tell you more stories about little Tommy sitting on the stairs!” is probably one of my top-ten favorite lines from the past couple of years – and the unfunny moments were even more wrenching than before. Which is pretty remarkable, considering I knew what was coming. It was still a horrible shock – I still dug in my heels against it and waited for the miraculous reversal of fortune, the “Oh! There! That’s what actually happened, it’s all fine” moment. There wasn’t one, of course. And it hurt. Again.

“Speaking of the president, how is she?”
Sorry. I slipped.

The characters are beautifully well-rounded, through what they say themselves and as seen through others’ eyes. Rose, calm and more together than all of them; Vincent so obnoxious and yet the one who breaks my heart more than anyone (until someone else does); Ryan, who … well, about whom the less said the better. Kara, one of those people who makes for a great fictional character but would be a horrible companion – a nice person to visit but … The Interviewer is enigmatic, with a patina of tragedy that is never explained (here). And the even-more-mysterious-than-the-Interviewer Mr. Burns, who in this audiobook sounds a lot like Peter Falk.

I love the format of the book, told through interviews and journal entries, news items and transcriptions. Neuvel does a wonderful job of building both character and plot in a style which could in other hands be patchwork. The emotional roller-coaster was a total surprise when I read it first, and was every bit as wrenching this time. I can see myself reading this annually.

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