Review: Only Human (Themis Files #3) – Sylvain Neuvel

Only HumanOnly Human (Themis Files #3) – Sylvain Neuvel
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Release Date: May 2018
Rating:  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:  In her childhood, Rose Franklin accidentally discovered a giant metal hand buried beneath the ground outside Deadwood, South Dakota. As an adult, Dr. Rose Franklin led the team that uncovered the rest of the body parts which together form Themis: a powerful robot of mysterious alien origin. She, along with linguist Vincent, pilot Kara, and the unnamed Interviewer, protected the Earth from geopolitical conflict and alien invasion alike. Now, after nearly ten years on another world, Rose returns to find her old alliances forfeit and the planet in shambles. And she must pick up the pieces of the Earth Defense Corps as her own friends turn against each other.

Review:  It’s always bittersweet to see a series I’ve loved come to an end. On the one hand, I’m getting answers and conclusions.  Things are wrapping up.  Characters are getting on with their lives.  But I’ve been in love with the Themis Files series since page one of Sleeping Giants when it came out a few years ago.  It’s hard to let go.

For those of you not familiar with the Themis Files, you may want to skip this review… it’s spoilery.  Here’s a brief overview of the first two books, courtesy of Goodreads:

Sleeping Giants (Book One) – A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

Waking Gods (Book Two) – As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.

Like the two before it, Only Human is told through transcripts of audio/video diaries, conversations and pilot logs.  I think, outside of the plot itself, this method of delivery makes this series even more addictive and readable.  I kept finding myself thinking “ok, just one more quick chapter before I stop for a bit.”  The chapters are short and punchy and keep you pulled into the story.

I’m not going to lie… I missed Kara and the Interviewer.  I know their deaths were necessary in Waking Gods, but I couldn’t help but miss their characters.  Kara was one badass chick.  Rose and Eva are great and are very strong characters, but I just loved Kara and her attitude.  The Interviewer had a great, dry sense of humor (not to mention mystery) that I thought added another layer of awesome to the previous installments.

Often in series, I feel cheated at the end.  I feel like I’ve invested so much time and emotion into books and characters, only for things to wrap up unrealistically in the final book.  Thankfully, the last book in the Themis Files didn’t disappoint.  Only Human fit well with its predecessors.  It didn’t come off as rushed or too easily wrapped up.  I didn’t feel like Neuvel was trying to write an ending to please anyone but the characters. I was a bit thrown by the start of the book, with several main characters being transported to an alien planet.  It was weird and unexpected, but oh-so-perfect once you get used to the idea.  Once back on Earth, friendships are tested and right and wrong are no longer clear cut in a world that has changed beyond recognition.  I couldn’t help but draw parallels from current political situations we’re in now, which I’m sure was Neuvel’s intent.

Book one had me hooked.  Book two broke my heart.  And Only Human, book three, was the perfect ending to an amazing trilogy.

Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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