I’m a big fan of epistolary novels, oral histories are particularly juicy and fun. Add in robots and aliens? The description sold me instantly! Sadly, the other problem with oral histories is that I inevitably compare them to Max Brooks’ World War Z. I realize that’s incredibly unfair as World War Z is an exceptionally awesome book, but that’s where my bar is set. Sadly, this book is nowhere near the level of World War Z.
Short summary: big metal body parts are showing up all over the world. Turns out they belong to a big robot woman built by aliens. The story is told by a series of interviews conducted by a man working for some unknown organization. We the reader hear from 7 or so people closely involved with the retrieval and compilation of the robot body parts.
The good. The plot is really interesting and genuinely considers geopolitical consequences to a discovery like this. So many books are too US-centric and don’t even talk about how massive world shaking events would affect the rest of the world. This one does and it’s really refreshing. I mean, I don’t agree with the choices the author made and I think real world consequences to hiding such a massive discovery would be devastating BUT at least we talked about it. The epistolary concept is done well, I was rarely lost while reading it. The connecting thread is the mysterious shadow figure who conducts interviews with the people in the team. The pacing is quite good and, while the novel ends in a cliffhanger that sets up the next book, the main plotline is resolved by the end.
The bad. There’s a love triangle. That’s right, a love triangle. And not a well written one at that. It’s believable, kinda, but it just comes out of nowhere. The interview format has to bend over backwards a bit at the end to give us information. The format also takes us out of the story and makes it difficult to connect with the characters — we’re told what happens instead of experiencing it. This worked for me in World War Z and other similar novels, because of the strength of the narrative, in this book it just felt like I was reading a newspaper article.
Overall, I loved the premise and but I really, really wish this had lived up to it.