Only Human is the third in the Themis files trilogy, following Waking Gods and Sleeping Giants. We pick up about 9 years after the events of Waking Gods, with the Giant Robot Themis leaving Earth to arrive on the alien planet it originated from.
The format is the same as the other two books – a collection of interviews, transcripts, diary entries that knit the narrative together. The start of this book has Rose, Vincent, Eva and Ekim (an alien) escaping in Themis back to earth.
But earth isn’t what it one was.
Basically, everything has gone to hell. A hundred million people dying has left an incredible power vacuum. The US has managed to fix the giant robot they had managed to deactivate at the end of the last book, and have basically started empire building. Russia has done very much the same – and when Themis ends up in Estonia (now occupied by Russian forces), we have the stage set for confrontation.
It was mostly enjoyable, but I think because of recent politics, having giant political confrontations isn’t the most comfortable of reading. If I wanted humans acting irrationally and being dickheads to the other, I could read the news.
I enjoyed more of the stuff happening on the alien planet and how their weird philosophy had kind of backfired and was causing problems there as well. There was a lot of politics, but it seemed a bit divorced from our reality (though it seems to have liberally sampled some of the problems here). At times it felt a bit on the nose. But not enough to take you out of the story.
It delightfully acknowledged the absurdities and contradictions within the world, and in reflection a lot of the peripheral characters really underscore the central conceit of the entire world being a bit shit. Or at least having a lack of centre, or grounding, after the events of Waking Gods. It is sad that instead of humanity getting its shit together, it just gets more shit though.
But I really enjoyed Eva, being her mother’s daughter, and being brash and uncontrollable. She was delightful. Slightly irrational, but then so was everyone. Also Rose Franklin was still a great character. We also had Katherine, a really hard-ass, sarcastic Russian operative to add a lot of the humour in this book.
The end I felt was a bit…too neat. I saw it coming from a few miles away and so wasn’t at all surprised by it. It did wrap up the whole saga quite nicely – and in a way that solved the problems created by the second book. You’ll have to read the book, but I find the resort to ‘supervision’ a bit depressing.
Anyway, it was a fun trilogy and I liked the style a lot.