Overview (No Spoilers): Other than Iron Gold, Only Human was one of my most anticipated book releases of 2018. With that being said, I had such lofty expectation of where Neuvel would take this concluding installment of The Themis Files trilogy, especially after one of the best literary cliffhangers I’ve encountered in recent memory at the end of Waking Gods. Thrilled at being sent an advanced review copy for Only Human, I quickly dove into this quick read, excited to see what would happen to Vincent, Eugene, Eva and Rose. Within the preceding novels of this trilogy, I was routinely impressed at the level of detail and emotions conveyed in the unique interview format. Only Human continued this distinctive formatting theme, while providing files/memos/articles from both in Esat Ekt and Earth. I thoroughly enjoyed this series as a whole and liked this overall conclusion, however it felt outclassed by the first two novels in series. After one specific key death in Waking Gods, I felt like the remainder of the series lacked some of the magic, perhaps charm is a better descriptor, it had previously conveyed to the reader. While Waking Gods was a much darker book than Sleeping Giants, Only Human continued on the deep trend, never recapturing the extent of the amusing exchanges that endeared us to previous characters. Sure there was the introduction of new characters that attempted to fill the void, however none of them were given the depth, time to develop or backstory to really bond with the reader. Only Human yo-yoed back and forth between events unfolding on Earth nine years after Themis disappeared, to what happened to the occupants of Themis immediately following unexpectedly arriving at Esat Ekt. Both storylines were fascinating, leaving me on the edge of my seat wanting more of everything, from overall detail, to world building, and character depth. Perhaps flushing out Vincent, Eugene, Eva and Rose’s time on Esat Ekt and the events on Earth into two separate books would have served to supply the level of detail my curiosity begs, as such what Neuvel managed to pack into one book was impressive. Reflecting back on the wild ride that was Only Human, we saw glimpses of an alien world and culture, the human race coping with in the aftermath of destruction in Waking Gods, and a massive robot battle scene all jam packed into one book. Overall, The Themis Files as a whole was one of the most entertaining trilogies I’ve read, especially considering the unique formatting Neuvel employs to deliver his intriguing tale. As an afterthought, my criticisms of Only Humancould also be biasly derived in part from the large shadow cast from the brilliancy that was Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods, making my expectations for this final installment an insurmountable hurdle to any conclusion.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- As a reader I thoroughly disliked Eva and Vincent’s sections. Eva was whiny, immature, and petty, while Vincent was selfish in his own way. So much of the story was focused on their relationship, even the big robot battle that had been building turned out to be a teenage rampage toward her father, ignoring any consequences if she had actually killed him. As much as I’d liked them in the other books it was sad to find them so irritating by the end.
- The ending was quite ordinary, when viewed through the series as a whole, with Vincent owning a toy store, Eva joining the military, and the people of Earth being on their best behavior due to the threat of a more powerful civilization babysitting them (even if it was just a bluff). With regard to our protagonists, it would seem like as only two of three people to have ever left Earth to visit another planet, they would not have been able to fall into such anonymity.
- Nuevel brought forth some thought provoking situations, specifically a eugenic based society construct taking place on both Esat Ekt and Earth. These key issues, painful to contemplate, were important to add to the story with regard to the larger picture and society’s darker tenancies during a time of crisis. In Esat Ekt, we saw parts of the population given limited opportunities due to the ‘purity’ of their birth, while on Earth we saw people placed in camps, refused jobs, or even killed based on the purity of their genes. I’m curious how these new prejudices on Earth would be resolved even with the Ekt’s threats.
- What other visions did Eva have? We only really glimpsed one in this book. Was she still having them or had she finally grown out of them?
- What was Vincent and Esok’s relationship like? Did she survive or know of his betrayal?
- Ekim was a character with such potential, but we never formed a bond with him and had minimal interactions, as such, his death didn’t impact the reader in a way I felt like it was intended. What did the Ekt think if him leaving for Earth even if it was forced? Did they know or care he had died? Do the Russians still have his body?
- Katherine was another key character that was intended to fill the void that our beloved Interviewer and Kara left. Unfortunately, while she had her moments of spark, she was unlikable as a whole.