Review – Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel

Only Human
By: Sylvain Neuvel
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Series: Themis Files #3
Received From: Publisher
(All reviews are our own, honest opinions.)

There have been few series in recent memory for which I am this excited for when a new volume is released. But a series about giant robots? Yeah, that’s definitely one of them. The Themis Files wraps up with the soon to be released Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel, a story about giant robots and aliens, but also of family, love, and human nature.

Only Human is the final book in the Themis Files, a series which begins with a little girl who finds a giant metal hand, only later discovering the rest of the giant metal robot it belongs to and the alien race who left it on Earth long ago. After being whisked away to this alien planet at the end of the second book, Waking Gods, Rose, Vincent, Eva, and General Govender find a way home. During that time Earth remains on edge. Fear and extremist views take hold, and the home our protagonists return to looks nothing like the one they left.

If you’d like to catch up with our reviews of the first two books or would like a quick refresher of what happened in books one and two, check out what we thought of Sleeping Giants here and Waking Gods here.

This novel continues with the mixed media formatting the first two books in the series sported. Interviews, journal entries, and more make up entirety of the story.

The book is split between the character’s time among the aliens who originally created Themis and the time after they return to Earth. Sections about life on the alien planet function as flashbacks in a more practical sense despite the continued use of interviews, recorded conversations, and personal diary entries. The alien culture and planet was rather fascinating. These are an incredibly ancient people with a rich history that has greatly influenced their culture. We get a surprising amount of details about this society for the format the novel is written in mixed media formatting. I did wish we got a bit clearer sense of the aesthetics of this other world and the various peoples that called it home.

Characters and their relationships change throughout the course of the novel. Like the second book, this one also has a ten year time skip. The majority of that time is taken up with Rose and the rest trying to escape – or not escape – back to Earth. Friendship, family, and love are all tested.

Many characters from the first two books make appearances, even if they aren’t in the novel for any great length of time. Side character’s stories received the sort of closure they deserved without detracting from or taking time away from other matters. The mysterious interviewer is, of course, missing from the narrative. While I do quite miss his voice, I am all too used to having my favorite characters killed off. The character which takes up much of the nameless man’s duty as interviewer is a Russian woman whom is interviewing the main cast of characters after their return to Earth. Personality wise she is quite different than the still nameless individual from books one and two, but her function within the narrative is comparitive.

Now, the pacing of Only Human is more akin to that of Sleeping Giants as opposed to Waking Gods. That is to say, the pacing is a bit slower with more focus on the characters and character interactions. If you’ve come for more epic battles with giant robots rest assured that you won’t leave disappointed. That said, some patience might be needed to get there as they don’t occur with the sort of frequency as the second book in the series.

I won’t go into any great detail about the ending in fear of spoilers, but it was very different. And I mean that in a good way. I really liked how the story wrapped up. It says something about people and human nature. I didn’t necessarily see the series ending in quite this way, but it didn’t feel at all out of place.

Only Human is more than just giant robots. It’s a story of love, family, home, and human nature. It is a wonderful end to a great series. I cannot wait to see what else Sylvain Neuvel has in store for us. If you haven’t already begun this series, I highly recommend giving it a try.

About author

Kathleen Townsend

Kate writes things, reads things, and writes about things she reads. She’s had a few short stories published, and works as a freelance editor. Favorite genres include epic & high fantasy, science fiction, time travel stories, video game related tales, light novels, and manga.

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