Review: Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel

Title: Only Human
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Pages: 352
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Free ARC from Del Rey

Rating: 2.5 stars

Note: As stated under the Source (above), I received this book for free from Del Rey via NetGalley. I pride myself on writing fair and honest reviews.

Review: Only Human is the third and final book in the Themis Files Trilogyby Sylvain Neuvel. The first book, Sleeping Giants, has been on my Kindle and on my TBR for entirely too long, so when I found myself with access to Only Human, I was sufficiently motivated to read all three, back to back.

As I find is frequently the case for me when reading a trilogy, the first installment was interesting enough to read the second, the second was better and left me no choice but to read the third, and the third was not exactly what I had in mind.

The premise of the books is thus: a little girl accidentally falls into a large metal hand that has been buried for millennia, left behind by an advanced alien species that had visited, leaving behind a few of their own who had mixed with the early developing human species. Years later, that little girl would become a scientist tasked with finding the rest of the parts to go with the large metal hand (parts that would make up a robot designed on an alien planet), and to discover why it was left behind. The outcome of that mission will change Earth and its residents in ways no one could have fully imagined.

Sounds intriguing, right? Conceptually, it definitely is. However, I had issues with the approach. First, the story is told via chapters that are entirely discussion (with minimal clarification as to who is actually talking) and chapters that are written in journal or report form. The chapters written entirely in dialogue grew increasingly frustrating for me. Sometimes the different speakers dialogue would be differentiated by italics or angle brackets, but not always. And you still had to figure out who was saying what. Irritating.

The characters’ behavior was relatively predictable. Character development seemed to fall by the wayside in the third book, and while I did like a few characters in the series – namely Rose and Kara – I didn’t feel connected to their experiences. The situations they found themselves in were often devastating, stressful, heart-wrenching, and even wondrous. But I never felt any of those things. I didn’t like Vincent or Eva one bit.

Finally, while I believe the author and I are very like-minded in terms of our morals, ethics, and political beliefs, the message in the last book was so blatant it annoyed even me – even though I agree with what he was saying! When it comes to overarching messages, subtlety is more effective in my opinion.

Ultimately, the concept was unique and compelling, there were some really interesting developments throughout the story, but the series just felt…thin. Still, it’s a series I’ll remember. Clearly, there is an audience for this trilogy, I’m just not it.

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