Only Human – Sylvain Neuvel (#3 Themis Files) 1.5/5
I read the first two parts of this trilogy in 2019 and I really liked them. The first one, Sleeping Giants, was amazing, the idea, the execution, the pacing… everything was really good. The second part, Waking Gods, was not so good. It suffered from the overabundance of overused plot lines. It was just one cliche plot idea stacked upon another, but still, it was an interesting read. (You can read my full review of these two books here) The third part is just one big no.
Where the first book dealt with the science behind the artefacts, and the second dealt with the reaction of the humans to the alien invasion, this one deals with immigration(?). I have no idea.
At the end of the second novel, our main protagonists are whisked off to the home planet of the giant alien robots. The third novel picks up from there. But if you thought we would get more of the same as in the previous two books, you would be wrong. What we get is a disjointed story that jumps around in time – the central story taking place on earth when the main protagonists return to Earth with flashbacks to their 9-year-long stay on the alien planet.
In those flashbacks we see how the aliens treated the humans, but also we get to see how their government functioned. This is a thinly veiled critique of the way western world treats their immigrants and the native minorities. It is also a thinly veiled critique of expansionism and modern “colonial” relations between states.
In the present time, we see how the single robot that was left on earth was used by the Americans to basically conquer half the world (even taking over Canada!). The evil Americans are opposed by the evil Russians and the evil Chinese. Basically, everyone is evil and is sitting around twirling their moustaches and are ready to blow everything up.
The resolution of the imminent conflict comes from a Deus ex Machina – one of the main protagonists invites the aliens and has them say to Earth’s governments that they are to behave well to everyone, to make sure everyone has food, shelter and medicine, or else they’ll come back and spank them like the naughty children they so obviously are.
That’s that. That’s the book. It is one part oversimplified political critique and one part naïve political solutions in the vein of a 2nd year student of humanist sciences. I was almost expecting Neuvel to start spewing quotes from Chomsky, Žižek, Benjamin, or Rand. Fortunately, we were spared that. The entire book is of course sprinkled with random “look at me I’m a kickass cool character” statements from the Canadian linguist (who would have thunk that he’d be the one delivering those zingers, huh?).
What can I say, I was warned that the third part was bad and people were right. So just skip that one. You won’t miss a thing. The dude does not abide.