Author: Daniel H. Wilson
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“They are in your house. They are in your car. They are in the skies…Now they’re coming for you.
In the near future, at a moment no one will notice, all the dazzling technology that runs our world will unite and turn against us. Taking on the persona of a shy human boy, a childlike but massively powerful artificial intelligence known as Archos comes online and assumes control over the global network of machines that regulate everything from transportation to utilities, defense and communication. In the months leading up to this, sporadic glitches are noticed by a handful of unconnected humans — a single mother disconcerted by her daughter’s menacing “smart” toys, a lonely Japanese bachelor who is victimized by his domestic robot companion, an isolated U.S. soldier who witnesses a “pacification unit” go haywire — but most are unaware of the growing rebellion until it is too late.
When the Robot War ignites — at a moment known later as Zero Hour — humankind will be both decimated and, possibly, for the first time in history, united.”
Thoughts: I have a confession: I truly believe that robots and computers will be humankind’s downfall. Whether it is through Internet-based terror or because they eventually become cognizant and independent thinkers, that remains to be seen. Something like Terminator or I, Robot will happen. Trust me.
So what am I doing reading a novel about artificial intelligence taking control and plunging the world into a terrifying war? As much as I remain convinced this is a highly probably scenario, I am compelled to read about them. I have not figured out whether it is my subconscious preparing me for the inevitable or whether I am just a glutton for punishment. (I suspect it is a bit of both.) Regardless, I can find enjoyment in such terror, and Robopocalypse met that requirement.
The entire “story” is told after the war ends. Surviving soldiers find a black box that contains vignettes of all of the heroes who played a key part in the final showdown. Robopocalypse itself is one soldier’s transcriptions of the data contained within the black box, shared for all eternity so that future generations will know the truth. It is an unusual plot device, one that could backfire since the reader knows how the story ends from the very beginning. However, Mr. Wilson is able to make the reader forget the ending through entrancing stories of courage and terror. A reader quickly forgets how the war ends, as the stories showcase the precursors to the uprising and the bleakness of the war. Tension is successfully built even as the story jumps from character to character, around the globe and through time. This is a credit to Mr. Wilson’s ability to weave an intricate story with clarity, bridging potential gaps with ease.
One of the more enjoyable, and brilliant, aspects of the story is the cast of characters. These heroes span generations and cultures, from an elderly Japanese gentleman to a little girl forced to experience torture. The entire story is a testament to the strength of humankind and the idea that heroes emerge from the most unlikely of places. It is also a great lesson about never quitting, especially when the situation appears to be impossible.
The biggest issue with Robopocalypse is with the ending of the war. Through all the stories of humans’ ability to adapt and overcome the seemingly impossible, their ingenuity and resolve, the final battle of the war is anti-climactic and a complete letdown. It just does not ring true given everything the heroes have had to do to survive to that point.
Robopocalypse has already been earmarked for potential as a movie, with names like Steven Spielberg being bandied about as potential producers. Done correctly, it could be amazing. There are great visuals, albeit rather gory, and the plot itself is intense. It does have the potential for containing too many characters, making it difficult to keep track of them all. However, I suspect that should Steven Spielberg continue with the project, this will become a non-issue.
Now, my husband actually finished reading Robopocalypse before I did, and he was not impressed. As a counterpoint to my gushing, I tried to get him to share his opposing views with you, but he declined. Suffice it to say that he could not understand why I enjoyed it so much, and I fail to understand why he was so dismissive of it!
Thank you of Doubleday Publishing for my review copy!