Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Category: Science Fiction
Publication Date: April 26th, 2016
This story being written in a documentary format, told almost entirely through a series of recorded interviews was a bit of a surprise. It was a good surprise though as it helped move the story along a lot faster than had it been told in a more traditional format. We may have loved it so much this way because we actually listened to the audiobook version which features a full cast for all the interviewed characters. It is definitely recommended to read it this way. There were several times that this being listened to, where you can’t see ahead on the page, was a benefit as far as building suspense and the cast did a marvelous job.
The unnamed interviewer was in pretty much every scene and was a total boss. No matter what the situation and what people were throwing at him he always had a devious way to stay on top and stay ahead. And the shade he would throw at people that were being stupid! It was quite simply exquisite.
It was also fun to hear him talking to one character and then in the next scene be talking to another and there would be just enough hints in the second scene to see what the invisible hand of the interviewer did about the first conversation.
The best example of this is when he is clearly not like what one person is saying about the main research team in one chapter. Then in the next chapter he is talking to the head of that research team and she casually mentions that the person the interviewer was previously talking to “mysteriously” has had their work visa revoked.
The chemistry between all of the characters is well done. They all get along or don’t in believable and interesting ways. This is especially impressive in that usually there are only two people talking in each chapter and one is always the Interviewer so we never actually see the other characters interact except by their own recounting of things that happened.
The left behind tech from aliens is eerily fascinating in that it is unknown and the characters have no idea what they are introducing into the world. The concept of how this tech was left for humans to find was that humans were unable to discover it until our technology had advanced to a point that we can manipulate radioactive material, namely argon isotopes.
Things were left a little bit too tidy in this installment for there to be a whole lot of speculation about what happens next. However there were a few things left open-ended to leave excitement for what may come.
I have only read a few books that are written in this interview style, and I gotta say I love the change of pace from the traditional way. The Interviewer is my hero and at first I didn’t think I would like him because of his attitude. But his sassy-ness and quick wit became the things I love. There were parts where I honestly got bored because the conversations would kinda go long and I remember just begging for something to happen. Not often but a few times. Overall I am excited to see where this series going.
There is not really anything I can think of that I did not like about this book. I liked that the “files” that were the chapter names were not continuous so you know something happened in between chapters and you get to piece together what it was that happened through small hints and comments.
It was mentioned how the tech was hidden so that humans would only be able to discover it once we hit certain milestones in technology. I am not sure if it the author intended this or not but I felt like there was some intention on the aliens’ part that humans should also be able to cooperate internationally in order for the tech to be completed. The world reaches the brink of World War III at one point because this lesson has not been learned well enough (or at all). I really liked what seemed to be commentary on the potential deadliness of handling dangerous technology without being able to come to an international understanding.
I do most of my listening to audiobooks while I am at work and there were a few times I would be walking down a hallway while listening then just stop and forget to keep walking for a moment because I got so entranced by what was happening in this book! By the time it was over, I was pretty much trying to think of who I could coerce into reading this book so that I would have more people to talk about it with.