Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel

First, I was annoyed with this book. Then, unexpected developments and a raw humanity turned everything upside down. But let me start at the beginning, and be aware of spoilers, because reviewing the ending of a series without mentioning some events by name would simply turn into a collection of vague statements. You have been warned.

Only Human opens with a prologue that makes worrying suggestions about what happened on Earth since the horrifying events of Waking Gods. It leads up to a journal entry by Rose that is, again, looking back on pretty much a decade since the ending of the previous book: Themis was taken back to her home planet with her unwilling passengers inside.

Ten years did our heroes live on an alien planet with a species more evolved than ours – and we would get it in flashbacks? Yeah, I was annoyed. It felt like I had been robbed of the part I signed up for, those events you look forward to the most, the incredibly exciting FI part of Sci-Fi.

This timeline jumping continued to bother me for about half of the book, until it became clear what the purpose of not knowing the entire scope of life on the planet Esat Ekt was. Still, I would have preferred to live though the entire story like the characters again, and not be surprised with plot twists that only work because you don’t have all the knowledge.

That aside, the second half of the book made everything worth it. It’s hard to find the words how amazing the connection of all the concepts, characters, developments and thoughts was. The Ekt, a highly developed species, were dealing with the same basic issues we deal with, suggesting that some things simply cannot be solved by scientific progess (as much as we would like to believe that).

Vincent was dealing with fatherhood in such a… Vincent way, it was a great testament to his character. I’ve also grown to like Rose again, genuinely. And I was fascinated by the people on Earth acting exactly like you would expect them to in the face of alien interaction.

I was so glad to see Mr. Burns again, and to get more of his stories I’ve grown to love. And well, that ending. I can’t say anything about it, so I’ll rather list more things I did love about Only Human: the Ekt man who learned English (I don’t really have a grasp of their language) was absolutely adorable. Rose’s solution to everything, and her explanation of why she did what she had to, and ugh it’s just so wonderfully realistic.

And Eva – I just love this girl. It’s a shame we really got to know her fantastic character only so late in the series. I can absolutely see more books coming for her, especially with this life she’s had. Her journal entry is one of my favourites of all the books.

“I hate this world. People are small. They’re ignorant, and they’re happy to stay that way. They make an effort to. They’ll spend time and energy finding ways not to learn things just to feel comfortable with their beliefs.”

“One step at a time, I guess. One foot in front of the other. I don’t know what else I can do. If you see something wrong with the world, fix it. But what if it’s the whole world that needs fixing?”

Together, all the different concepts painted a comprehensive picture of what I can only call simple, raw humanity, in different species as well as our own. The fundamental questions in Only Human are not just relevant in case of an alien invasion, but something we should think about right now. What constitutes life? What does it mean to be human? The title is perfectly chosen for this thought-provoking ending to a truly unique series. I used to say I would recommend these books to anyone who loves or wants to try Sci-Fi and books in file form, or is just looking for a great story. Let me revoke this statement: I recommend The Themis Files to anyone.

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