Author: Sylvain Neuvel
First line: It was my eleventh birthday.
Review: I tend to manage about one sci-fi-ish novel a year; I'd been so desperately excited for this one and was thrilled when I landed a review copy.
In the end, this wasn't the oh-my-god-whaaaat?! story I'd hoped for, but it was an entertaining, light sci-fi/speculative-ish read that was quick, easy, and fun to consume over the weekend.
The premise is pretty simple: a young girl discovers a giant metal hand buried in the earth, and eleven years later, finds herself the head of the scientific team charged with unlocking the secrets of this massive, mysterious artifact. Unsurprisingly, figuring it out is more than just quiet research in a lab, and the search for answers spans the planet and causes international drama.
The story unfolds through "found documents" -- interview transcripts, articles, communiques, that kind of thing -- and through this we learn not just about the strange object, but the key people involved. There's just a small handful of characters we follow, from the nameless figure who manages the endeavor, the two military personnel who assist the lead scientist, to the brilliant linguist who is one of the keys to solving everything.
While the plot was fun, my big quibble was with the characters. There's a brilliant pilot who is admired and respected for her exception skills, but she's got the personality of a petulant, defensive teenager. Every interaction she's featured in, she's so bratty and combative it almost killed the story for me. She's got an immediate connection with the brilliant linguist, who ends up being the only one with any real back story, but he's so perfect it's hard not to read him as a Gary Stu.
This was originally a self-pubbed offering that got a traditional publisher after it was optioned for film (full story) and I don't know how much, if any, of the book changed between the self-published version and this one, released by Del Rey.
This is the first in what will be a trilogy (siiiiiigh) and it was fun enough I'll be keeping an eye out for the next book (I haven't seen any info about when that will be, sadly). Readers who like zippy, slightly creepy stories that mix a hint of science with a dose of mystery will enjoy this one. It's being compared to The Martian, which I haven't read, but if you liked that one, you might dig this one, too!
Genre: Fiction (Science Fiction / Speculative / Archaeology / Alien Technology / Romantic Relationships)
Publisher/Publication Date: Del Rey (4/26/2016)