Only Human

Only Human

by Sylvain Neuvel
Only Human

Only Human

by Sylvain Neuvel



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Pacific Rim 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).
Brilliant scientist Rose Franklin has devoted her adult life to solving the mystery she accidentally stumbled upon as a child: a huge metal hand buried beneath the ground outside Deadwood, South Dakota. The discovery set in motion a cataclysmic chain of events with geopolitical ramifications. Rose and the Earth Defense Corps raced to master the enigmatic technology, as giant robots suddenly descended on Earth’s most populous cities, killing one hundred million people in the process. Though Rose and her team were able to fend off the attack, their victory was short-lived. The mysterious invaders retreated, disappearing from the shattered planet . . . but they took the scientist and her crew with them.
Now, after nearly ten years on another world, Rose returns to find a devastating new war—this time between humans. America and Russia are locked in combat, fighting to fill the power vacuum left behind after the invasion. Families are torn apart, friends become bitter enemies, and countries collapse in the wake of the battling superpowers. It appears the aliens left behind their titanic death machines so humankind will obliterate itself. Rose is determined to find a solution, whatever it takes. But will she become a pawn in a doomsday game no one can win?

Praise for Only Human
“Packing a surprisingly powerful thematic punch, this novel is an addictive blend of science fiction, apocalyptic thriller, and chillingly timely cautionary tale. Two (giant, robotic) thumbs up!”Kirkus Reviews

“Boasting a winning combination of briskly paced action and futuristic dystopia tempered by cautious optimism, Only Human brings a fitting, satisfying end to the Themis Files series.”RT Book Reviews

“This action-packed tale with apocalyptic stakes is a fitting finale to this wonderfully cinematic series.”Publishers Weekly

“Series fans will be eager for Neuvel’s ever-so-satisfying conclusion to his rip-roaring science-fiction adventure tale.”Booklist

Don’t miss any of The Themis Files by Sylvain Neuvel:


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399180125
Publisher: Random House Worlds
Publication date: 05/01/2018
Series: Themis Files Series , #3
Sold by: Random House
Format: eBook
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 136,042
File size: 6 MB

About the Author

Sylvain Neuvel is the author of Sleeping Giants, Waking Gods, and Only Human. He is a linguist and translator based in Montreal. He is at work on an R2-D2 replica and his next novel.

Read an Excerpt




Personal Journal Entry—Dr. Rose Franklin

Be careful what you wish for.

About ten years ago—I was thirty-seven at the time—a giant robot from another planet visited Earth and decimated part of London. We succeeded in destroying it, but thirteen more appeared and dispersed a genetically engineered gaseous weapon in two dozen of our most populous cities. One hundred million people died in the process. Among them, this mysterious man whose name I never learned, who steered our every move ever since I was put in charge of studying that giant hand at the University of Chicago, and Kara Resnik, my best friend, who was also Vincent’s wife, and Eva’s biological mother.

With some help, I found a way to alter the metal these robots were made of at the molecular level and disabled one of them. That was enough to convince the aliens to leave.

I can’t say that I knew that was going to happen, that millions would die because I had discovered Themis and brought attention to our planet, but I was afraid it would. I was afraid ever since I was brought back to life. I felt . . . out of place, and I wished that whoever built Themis would come back and take her away. I also said I hoped they would take me with them.

They did. After the alien robots left Earth, General Eugene Govender, head of the EDC, Vincent, Eva, and I went aboard Themis to celebrate our—I was going to say victory, but that’s not what it was—survival. While we were there, the Council of Akitast—the group of aliens who decide how their world deals with others—had Themis brought back. She dematerialized on Earth and reappeared on Themis’s home planet, with the four of us inside.

They call it Esat Ekt—Home of the Ekt, their people. In some small way, they’re also our people. The Ekt first came to Earth some five thousand years ago—twenty-four of them or so. They were among us for a couple of millennia. They were ordered never to interfere, to stay out of history’s way, but over time, some of them frayed and joined the natives. They had children—half-human, half-alien—who in turn had children—three-quarter human—and so on, until their descendants, undistinguishable from humans, had but a tiny bit of alien genetics left in them. Three thousand years later, there was nothing left to distinguish them from. All of us, every single person on Earth, were related, however remotely, with the handful of aliens who chose love over duty, back when the Titans walked the Earth.

We have been living here on Esat Ekt for nine years now, but we are still very much outsiders. Their entire society is built on the idea that different species shouldn’t interact in ways that can affect them, that each should be left to evolve according to its own set of values. Centuries ago, their kind was nearly decimated by the inhabitants of a planet their emperor had displaced, exiled for personal or political reasons. After that, they replaced their monarchy with a very complex democracy, and took their noninterference policy to a whole new level. To the Ekt, “polluting” an entire species with their genetics means robbing them of the future they should have. They view this as we would genocide. What happened on Earth was a tragedy for them as much as it was for us. They came to exterminate what they thought were a handful of Ekt descendants before they could contaminate all of us. When they realized they were too late, they had already killed millions. We are living reminders of what they consider a stain on their history, like the Holocaust Memorial, or a monument to the victims of slavery.

They will not be reminded anymore. One way or another, our time here ends tonight. We’re going home.


Mission log—Vincent Couture and Rose Franklin

Location: Aboard Themis

[Dad, don’t do this!]

—It’s too late for that. Don’t come any closer, Eva. I don’t want to hurt him. Rose, can you hold her?

—Hold her? No, I don’t think I can hold her. Come here, Eva. Let’s not make this any harder than it already is. You don’t want anyone to get shot by accident. We’ll send him back, Eva. I promise. No one else has to get hurt.

[What do you mean, no one else? What happened? What’d you do, Dad?]

—Ekim, eyyots ant ipyosk insot. Ekim! Eyekant!

[Ekim, don’t do it. You know he’s bluffing. He won’t hurt you. Eyekant ops!]

You’re right, Eva. I don’t wanna hurt him, so don’t force me to.

{It’s OK, Eva. Eyekant aktept eps.}

[No! Don’t do it for me! I’ll stay! I’ll stay here with you.]

—You can’t stay, Eva. Not anymore. You don’t know what we . . . never mind. There’s no time for this. Ekim, you’re all strapped in? Here. Hold the gun, Rose. I need a minute to get into my harness, and we’re gone.

—They’re coming, Vincent, we need to go now.

—Dammit! I can’t get my arms through.

—You can do it. Just relax.

—I’m not sure I can. I’ve never piloted the upper body. Last time I saw someone put this on, Eva was like ten, I . . . 

—Can’t you switch places with Ekim? He can guide you through the commands on the console.

—He said it’s complicated. He had me at “orbital defense system.” I don’t think I—Got it! But I’ll never be able to close the front. Let me put the helmet on, see if it works without the braces closed.

—Any minute now . . . We have to GO!

—Yes! She’s powering up. Go! Go! Ekim, punch it in. Eyyots!

—How long until . . . 


—What? Vincent, where are we?

—I don’t know. I think we’re . . . It’s nighttime. Trees all around us. Ekim, is this Earth? Akt eyet Eteyat?

{Ops eyoktiptet.}

—What did he say?

—Euh . . . It’s an expression. Beats me. Something like that.

—Look at the stars.


—Look at the stars. Do you recognize anything?

—I don’t see anything familiar . . . Yes! That’s . . . la grande ourse. I don’t know the constellation names. The big bear?

—The Great Bear. Ursa Major.

—Yeah, that. We’re here, Rose. This is Earth.

—Wow. I can’t believe we made it. Eva, say something.

[Dad, what did you do?]

—Not now, Eva.

[Tell me what you did!]

I said not now. It won’t be long before someone notices us. Let’s lay Themis down so we can get out.

[Just tell me?]

Eva, what do you think they’ll do to Ekim if they find him here? He needs to get back. Ekim, eyost yeskust ak eyyots esat.

{Eyekant ets ops. Ethemis eyet onsoks.}

—What did he say? Empty Themis?

—He said Themis is empty. Drained. She used up all her energy to get here. There’s enough left to power the helmets but I can’t move the arms anymore.

—How long do we have to wait, Vincent?

[Dad, I’ll kill you if anything happens to him.]

—Easy, Eva. When you and I drained her in New York, it took only a few minutes before she was able to move again. Looks like we’re in the middle of nowhere. With any luck, no one’s spotted us and we can get out before the sun comes up. Heck, it might take days before we’re found. Just like last time.

[Last time we almost died.]

Then not like last time. Look, there’s nothing I can do. If I knew how to speed this up, believe me I would.

—Go talk to Ekim, Eva. You have some time. You should talk to him. You might not see him again after he’s gone.

[I hate you, Dad. I really hate you.]

—I know.

—She’ll get over it, Vincent. Just give her time.

—I don’t know, Rose. What we did, it’s . . . Anyway, she’s home, that’s all that matters. Now we just need to get Ekim home safe.

—He could stay here.

—No, he couldn’t. They’d put him in a cage, stick needles in him all day. A hundred million of us died the last time his people were on Earth. It’s been a while, but I don’t think folks here would’ve forgotten.

—What will happen to him when he gets back home?

—Well, he’ll tell them we kidnapped him—we did. Hopefully, they’ll end it at that.

—Do you think they’ll believe him?

—I don’t know, Rose. What would you have me do? Write him a note?

—He looks scared.

—He’s a kid! He’s millions of miles away from home, and he may have just committed treason. I’d be scared too.

—You put a gun to his head.

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