Strippable Cover Reviews: Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

by Daniel H. Wilson

The apocalypse has hit in many ways over the years. Zombies. Plague. Creeping Ice-Ages.

And of course, there’s always the old stand-by favorite, Robots. We’ve seen them plod slowly through the Terminator films or swiftly dive and tear their way through clunky, barely functional ships in The Matrix. But author and roboticist Daniel H. Wilson is bringing them to us in a way that combines all of these into something that we’ve never come across before in his debut novel, Robopocalypse.

Wilson has written before, a survival guide on surviving robot uprisings segueing nicely into this novel, in much the same way Max Brooks did with his Zombies. And this isn’t where the similarities end, with Wilson borrowing the formula of Brooks’ popular World War Z to tell a story through an entire cast of characters and their unique tales.

The uprising starts out in the way that many in the genre do, with a rogue AI deciding that humanity, well, kind of sucks. Unfortunately, the pre-singularity world of the novel has mastered robotics technology to the point where everything from the newest pleasure models to brainless butlers are online, and naturally, the AI takes advantage of this. By slowly assuming control, it builds a global army to a point where, lashing out suddenly, humanity is nearly defenseless.

From somewhat cliched beginnings, Wilson’s tale is actually quite artful. With a Phd in robotics, he has insight into what is logically possible for a first generation machine to do. From there, continuing into later chapters, he branches out, bringing horribly plausible mechanical monsters to life. I won’t say what pluggers are, but trust me, they’re horrifying.

With a wide array of characters in the novel, Wilson’s writing pays them excellent service. For the most part, he is able to bring believable, excellent voices to his varied characters, with only a few moments where unfortunately nondescript dialogue intrudes. The problem with these is that often the voices are taken by his most interesting and memorable characters. So while they have something good to say, they may relate it in a way that isn’t memorable.

Robopocalypse is an unusual amalgam. It reads alternately as war novel, techno thriller, character study or dystopian downer, and all of the genres flow easily together. Wilson wields his pen deftly, creating something that is both genre and not, a piece of speculative fiction that you can hand to your mystery reading cousin without having to say “I know you don’t usually like Science Fiction but…” No qualifiers needed, this is an excellent read.

Posted on July 4, 2011 at 22:22 by Lincoln Eddy · Permalink
In: Books, Columns, Reviews, The Written Word · Tagged with: , , , ,