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Cannonball Read IV: Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

By Doctor Controversy | Book Reviews | October 23, 2012 | Comments ()


coverrobopocalypse.jpg

In a future unspecified in distance, but obviously not too far off, robots are everywhere. Domestic servants, assembly line workers, even military pacification and defence have their own robotic counter-points. With machines in our possession, there isn't much that we are unable to do. However, a top secret government AI project, codenamed Archos, learns that one thing humanity cannot do...survive. To Archos, the human race is a disease that needs to be cured. They do not appreciate life like it does, and so it must teach them that they are no longer the highest rung of the food chain. Archos is an apex predator, and humanity is its prey. Somehow, Archos escapes, and with its freedom comes a slow march towards the decimation of the human race.

Yes, it sounds extremely familiar, but I assure you that the book isn't just a ripoff of The Animatrix segment, "The Second Renaissance." The book's chronology follows the entire conflict between man and machine from the birth of its autonomous intelligence to its eventual defeat, all chronicled by one Cormac "Bright Boy" Wallace. Cormac has taken it upon himself to document the history of the "New War" after finding the black box just as humanity has won its victory against the machine hive mind. Through his eyes we witness the highs, the lows, and the ultimate endgame of this rapidly unfolding new era of history.

Robopocalypse brought me back to the roots of my Sci Fi geekdom, especially because it gave me the opportunity to use the phrase "conflict between man and machine." As a Sci Fi geek, you realize how omnipresent those words are in your fictional diet when you finally get to use them yourself. Ever since I was a kid, I've been obsessed with three realms of Science Fiction: time travel, genetic manipulation, and robots. I've always found robots to be an intriguing technological concept, especially machines that gain sentience and their struggle in a human dominated world. Indeed, my thoughts have always been that if robots existed in that form in our current society, mankind would bond together in order to cast them out as a second class of citizens. And make no mistake, like other portions of mankind have done in the past, robots would rebel. So needless to say, I ate this up.

If there is any gripe to be had, it's that this book is best enjoyed in as few sittings as possible. (Or if you have to break, do so strategically. Once this book gets going, it should be followed out to its conclusion as quickly as possible.) Also, and this is just a minor note (and a possible sequel note, so SPOILERS AHOY) it would be nice to see more stories about the "Freeborn" robots that rebel against Archos during the final phases of the war. (Which also ties into the want of certain storylines being concluded in concert with this thread.) Robopocalypse, despite the fact that it's one syllable over a comfortable speaking cadence, shows just what good Science Fiction storytelling can do. Better still, it's going to be turned into a Steven Spielberg film; and I deny you to read this book and not think of how good a prospect that could be. (If done right, of course.)

For more of Doctor Controversy's reviews, check out his blog, The Bookish Kind.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read IV. Read all about it.


(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • idiosynchronic

    Wilson's second book, Amped, shows some improvement & particularly innovation. I've refrained from recommending Robopocalypse except to the most hard-core science fiction fans.

  • I'm definitely excited to read that one at some point in the future. Thanks for the re-enforcement.

  • BobbFrapples

    I found that the story set up was incredibly similar to World War Z by Max Brooks. I liked parts, but was undewhelmed by the quick ending. A possible sequel might help this.

  • My thought as well, though I'll add that Max Brooks did a much better job executing the concept than Daniel H. Wilson.

    The largest problem I'm having with the book (haven't finished it yet) is that every character has the exact same bad feelings and makes the exact right decision with no real reason for either. The first time a domestic does anything wrong, people become convinced that a robot uprising is in the works. Any time a machine acts up, the people make the exact right call to foil the early plots. The book tries to explain this in the beginning by calling the people that have been recorded "heroes," but it seems like a poor attempt to cover a book full of Mary Sue characters.

    There are other flaws as well. The focus on a handful of characters deprives the reader of a larger picture of events taking place. The small attempts at inclusion of other cultures come across as patronizing at worst and merely heavy handed at best. The characters themselves feel like video game characters. They're shallow.

    It's not a terrible book. It's just not a very good one. I'm honestly hoping that a good script writer can flesh out some of the ideas better and give the characters less of a "stock" feel.

  • Semilitterate

    Couldn't have said it better. Not terrible, but the flavor just sort of missed my mouth, like bean sprouts

  • TherecanbeonlyoneAdmin

    Noted and added to the queue.

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