June 3, 2011

Review: Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

Author: Daniel H. Wilson
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 0385533853
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Pre-Order Information:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

*Novel provided by the publisher for a honest review

For more information please visit Daniel Wilson's website.

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. Robopocalypse is a brilliantly conceived action-filled epic, a terrifying story with heart-stopping implications for the real technology all around us…and an entertaining and engaging thriller unlike anything else written in years.

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson, already slated to become a motion picture with Spielberg at the helm, was a wonderful novel with glimpses at a terrifying future in which robots seek to annihilate humanity from the face of the Earth. Told through snippets of various 'heros' spanning from before Zero Hour and then the years immediately following it, this novel chronicles the fight against the robot uprising showing the struggle of humankind against an enemy that never tires and never wavers. Wonderfully written and surprisingly engaging, I just couldn't bring myself to put this novel down!

The characters definitely are what drew me in to this novel, from the flesh and blood ones that struggle throughout the course of the novel to the ones made of circuits and silicone. I was intrigued to see things from the varied range of personalities and even from Archos, the AI that initiates the war against humanity yet strives to preserve and study Life. The humans view point is often filled with wonderful struggles, before and after what comes to be known as Zero Hour, showing great vulnerability and yet inner strength in the face of adversity that makes their label by Archos' archival mind known as 'The Hero Archives' all the more fitting. But while most characters are either human or robot, there are more then a few heartbreaking hybrids created by the horrific curiosity of the cybernetic mind. Yet, even these creations maintain their humanity and come to play large roles in the war that comes. More amazing still were the robots given their humanity and the ability to choose. These robots actually become some of my favorite characters in the end because of their determination to help aid the humans despite the low probability of their own survival, not at the hands of Archos, but at the hands of those that they wish to help, humans.

And while the characters are engaging and their individual tales harrowing, the plot, while not exactly original had an execution that was and that instantly captivated me. In truth, this was something that I was worried about at first, that this might prove to be like every other Apocalypse at the hands of technology run amok, but this story truly proved to be otherwise. In fact, I found it rather fresh and action driven which sort of surprised me. I was really expecting a lot of character driven plot focusing on their hardships and bleak existence of these survivors but instead, I was given a novel that pushes through the history of the war showcasing all of the greater moments that led to the final showdown between Archos. There was nothing slow, nor overly insightful about this novel, the latter something that I'll hit on in a moment.

The writing was also something of a surprise. Wilson, being a PhD in robotics, I expected to have a very dry and overly technical writing style. When I requested this novel, I had little knowledge about his background and was expecting something written by your typical, imaginative writer, so naturally when I found out about the author's credentials, I was a little put off. However, this proved not to be an issue as Wilson does a masterful job of making the novel and the technology involved very accessible to the reader. In fact, nothing is gone in to in great detail other then what the reader needs to know. The technology and science behind it is more of a side note, a consequence of having robots as adversaries. In truth, I found everything to be quite impressive as a whole because I got the gist behind the AI intelligence and it's legion of robotic soldiers and their individual functions, while not being bogged down in technical jargon because of it. Also, the writing itself was wonderfully done, creating a varied and impressive landscape in which battles take place across the globe giving it a broader scope then I had initially thought it would have, a scope that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The only things that I wish could have been gone in to in more detail were the characters themselves. Mostly, the information we receive is very minimal giving you the impression of the character without letting you gather any real insight. Really, it can be said that this novel is perfectly geared towards being made in to a movie because watching the characters in the novel is much the same as watching them on the silver screen, something that is a little odd when reading. Did it detract? No, not really. At least not in my estimation, however, I would have loved to know more, seen more. I would have liked to experience some of the hardships in more detail and actually in the characters' heads. Or at least gotten a more in depth idea of their struggles instead of just glimpses. This could just be me though. I always love to know the more 'boring' moments as well as the action packed ones, instead we were just given the more impressive ones. Not something to complain about, but just my own little quirk. Otherwise, this novel was pretty well spotless for me.

In the end, I really enjoyed this novel and found the action and overall tone to be very engaging. I constantly wanted to know what happened next and who we would get to hear from next. The broad scope of this novel was also a welcome aspect creating a wide spread account of the Robotic uprising. The perfect summer read!

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Scars

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