ARC Review: Only Human

35820656Title: Only Human
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Genre: Science Fiction

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:World War Z meets The Martian in the explosive follow-up to Sleeping Giants (“One of the most promising series kickoffs in recent memory”—NPR) and Waking Gods (“Pure, unadulterated literary escapism”—Kirkus Reviews).
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.

The Themis files are such awesome science fiction stories; they capture the awe of technology and aliens and other worlds, but they also have such big focus on people and their relationships. My favorite thing about this series is that even when the world is falling apart, family always looks out for each other. The friendships and bonds and complicated ties that tie different characters together are truly the stars of the show.

After the end of Waking Gods, I was really about the scope of book 3 because a door had been opened to new worlds. The interesting thing about Only Human is that it takes place after a large time lapse after the events of book 2, and it brings the focus of the story back to earth. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get more time in the new worlds, but we did get a lot of flashbacks into the time between books 2 and 3. Eva is a willful teenager now, and sometimes she and Vincent don't see eye to eye. The epic stakes of everything in this book make the usual rebellious teenager phase so much more intense and terrifying; just imagine trying to talk down a teenager who has access to a giant world-destroying robot!

One thing I love about science fiction is how the crazy scenarios and how people react to them can actually reflect on our world today. As we found out in Sleeping Giants, nearly everyone on earth has some alien DNA in them. In Only Human, we see how far people's paranoia goes, and how much we fear those who we perceive as different from us. People's social status and standard of living are dictated by how "human" they are, even when the fraction of alien DNA we are talking about is less than 1%. It's a thinly veiled criticism of how quick we are to erect barriers between people of different backgrounds and find scapegoats in a crisis.

Waking Gods has to be my favorite book in the series (I don't think any book in the series could come close to topping the emotional impact of two heart-wrenching scenes in there), but Only Human was a strong conclusion to an excellent series. I highly recommend it!

A free e-ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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