Attention: contains spoilers, read at own risk.

The reports appear quite official: Zombie plague spreads from remote village in China across the globe. Huge metal body parts are discovered buried deep underground, way before human civilization had means to manufacture anything in such scale. Add newsclips, interviews, but no narrator to frame the story as a story. World-changing events unfold, for the reader to parse from seemingly documentary accounts. World War Z and Sleeping Giants both make use of this story format. It's the same literary device that has been made popular in genre fiction by Stand on Zanzibar, and arguably even 19th century letter novels like Dracula are predecessors. In movies Cloverfield made good use of 'found footage' technique. So it's not new. But it becomes fashionable every now and then, because it is effective. I'm tempted to try it myself, though I'm uncertain if I could make it work in a short story.

World War Z by Max Brooks has no central characters, although some people pop up in several fragments and their story can be followed throughout the book. Max Brooks has really racked his brain for various and varied zombie scenarios, although it's not just an exercise in treating an imaginary threat as realistically as possible. WWZ is making an anti-cynical statement about human nature, despite the obvious gore and gloom. There are cowardly people and selfish people and people who profit from others' misery and also surprising heroes and just general human resilience even at the most dire circumstances. There's some political commentary too. Secretiveness, keeping up appearances, pride and arrogance are the sins of overbloated hierarchical institutions, be it Chinese government or US army. Only lean, mean institutions/organizations focused on survival save lives etc.

Zombies (not the haitian traditional kind, but the ones in popular culture) are – perhaps together with serial killers – the only true urban monsters. Vampires, werewolves, and so on are village monsters, suspicious individuals threatening the social cohesion of a small group. It has no emotional resonance for urban dwellers, whose visceral fear is to lose their individuality among mindless masses. Even lousy zombie fiction is interesting because of the psychological aspect. But WWZ is definitely good zombie fiction, even if the book gets a bit heavy at times.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel, on the other hand, is an easy and fast read, it practically melts away. Chapters are short and the language is straightforward. Unlike WWZ, Sleeping giants has central characters, who get tangled up in mystery of giant body parts found all around the globe. Rose used to be a shy, self-absorbed child, but has grown up to be motherly research team leader, Ryan is a perfect-son-in-law type dude who falls in love with top pilot Kara, Vincent is a genius linguist with a difficult personality and then there is the mystery man conducting the interviews. His identity remains to be solved in the next books.

As the huge mystery hands and feet etc are assembled into a giant robot, another nameless character is introduced, who blurts out the von Däniken inspired origin of the robot – which was the weakest part of the book, I would have preferred a subtler and more drawn-out revelation. I always wonder about these secret histories passed from generation to generation. It's awfully good luck no-one during the long centuries decided papa's or mama's weird stories were delusions or just unimportant folklore, not worth burdening one's own kids with…

Kara Resnik shares other attributes besides first name with Kara Thrace from Battlestar Galactica. She's talented, hot-tempered, anti-authoritative, physically fearless, prone to fights and emotionally troubled but also drawing guys to her like a flame draws moths. And just happens to be exceptionally pretty too. (One day I'll write a story about a tough but lovable female top pilot who has a wart on her nose and thick waist, I swear).  But I get it, we all have our fantasies, and one not uncommon is the ultra-low-maintenance wild girl: She'll break your heart and your nose and looks damn hot while doing it.

Romance fan as I am, I find ancient mega-robots and galactic alien civilization fascinating enough on their own. Romance seems a bit forced here. Whether wild and reckless Kara ends up with nice guy Ryan or enigmatic Vincent, feels unimportant on the scale of things. Just get the robot moving! There have been plans to make Sleeping Giants Hollywood movie, and perhaps the love triangle works better on the big screen.


Sleeping Giants is recommended for beach read, it was competently written and fun to read. WWZ is recommended for people who tend to obsess over imaginary threats or suffer from unfocused fear for the mankind's future.