Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Only Human

Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel
Random House Publishing Group: 5/1/18
eBook review copy; 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9780399180118
Themis Files Series #3

Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel is the recommended third book in the Themis series. This is not a stand-alone novel and the three book series has to be read in the order they are written.

Since this is the last book in the series, I don't want to give away too much of the plot. Basically a giant robot was found buried in pieces around the Earth. It is put together and we are trying to master the technology, when more fully operational robots are sent to Earth and begin attacking. The attack is stopped, but all the robots, including Themis, the robot that was put together here, disappear from Earth. The human crew inside Themis, Dr. Rose Franklin, linguist Vincent Couture, his 10-year-old daughter Eve Reyes, and Gen. Eugene Govender, are stranded on the robots home planet, Esat Ekt. After being stranded on Esat Ekt for nine years, they return back to Earth, but the geo-political climate has changed. The group lands in Russia, become prisoners,  and discover that America and Russia are battling for the supreme control of the planet. Those in charge seem to be suffering from some kind of collective insanity and rule by violence and fear, including vast numbers of people sent to work camps and internment camps.

As in the previous two books, the story unfolds using interviews, diary entries, mission logs, and covert recordings. The narrative jumps back and forth between the time spent on Esat Ekt and after the group returns to Earth. Most of the main characters were already fully fleshed out in the first two books and are further developed here, while new characters are a bit lacking in development. Russian intelligence officer Katherine Lebedev comes across as an unrealistic cartoonish caricature especially with the "jokey" dialogue she takes part in. There isn't a lot of in-depth worldbuilding on Esat Ekt, and what is presented doesn't seem alien. The political climate on Earth is examined, but

Taken as a whole I'd give the series 4 stars, but, for me, this was a weak ending. I'm not entirely thrilled with Neuval's choice to make the plot so political. I get it; the current polarized political climate is disturbing. For me, however, all this did was make the presentation a bit too preachy in this final installment of the series and I didn't get as much of the science fiction, and robots, I craved.  Additionally, I can't help it, but I missed the unnamed narrator from the first two books. 

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the Random House Publishing Group.

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