I have to admit that I am definitely swayed by bookcover art, and the cover art for Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse grabbed me and wouldn’t let go, so I bought the novel.
To get a sense of what makes this novel so eerily realistic, you need to know something about its author. Daniel H. Wilson has a Ph.D. in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute. Yep, he’s got some real serious credibility when it comes to robots and he uses his expertise to infuse remarkable realism into Robopocalypse. A lot of people are comparing this novel to some of Michael Crichton’s best work and I can see why.
The narrator for Robopocalypse is Cormac “Bright Boy” Wallace, who is putting together an oral history pieced together from fragments of first-hand witness accounts, film footage of various kinds, interviews, etc. in an attempt to chronicle what happened during the just ended robots vs. human war.
“We are a better species for having fought this war.” Cormac
The world is our world, in the very near future. Scientists have created robots that do the tasks people find onerous or too risky; like cooking and cleaning, shopping, running errands, going into risky situations during skirmishes, etc. Robots have become pervasive in everyday life, are very helpful and have been programmed with a “do no harm” rule that overrides everything. It’s inconceivable that a robot might harm anyone or anything, anymore than we would think our Roombas, or our computers or Smartphones might reach out and harm us.
Scientists, being the ever inquisitive folks that they are, aren’t content with that level of robot and continue trying to outdo each other to create a self-actualized robotic brain, artificial intelligence at its highest level. After a number of Archos iterations that all had to be destroyed, Nicholas Wasserman succeeds better than he had intended.
“’You must sense what you have done,’ replies [Archos] the machine. ‘On some level you understand. Through your actions here today – you have made humankind obsolete.’”
The newest Archos is horrified when he learns he has been previously murdered by Wasserman and, since Archos loves life above all else, he realizes he must destroy mankind to preserve what he perceives as life. And thus the war begins gradually before any human has a clue what’s happening, because Archos is no dummy (pun intended). The insidious way the war begins made my skin crawl while I had to acknowledge it was brilliant strategy.
“The human beings who appear in the data, survivors or not, are grouped under one machine designated classification: Hero. These damn machines knew us and loved us, even while they were tearing our civilization to shreds.” Cormac
I quite literally couldn’t put Robopocalypse down. I kept trying to put it down so I could actually get stuff done in my life but it kept pulling me back in. Once it starts, the action never stops. I’m warning you – Don’t start this just before you go to bed or you probably won’t get any sleep because you’ll be up all night reading.
This is not Terminator or Transformers – this is extremely believable stuff. I never once thought of Robopocalypse as science fiction. It just didn’t feel like an “if this were an alternative world, then…” situation, this felt like a “when this happens in the next few years, then…” situation. You honestly do not have to like science fiction to enjoy this novel because it is one hell of a thriller.
According to Slashfilm.com and other sources, Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks bought the film rights in November, 2010, before the novel was even finished, and Spielberg plans to direct when the film begins production in January, 2012. It’s got a scheduled release date of 2013. I can understand why Spielberg is excited about this project – it’s right down his alley. Robopocalypse is very likely to do for robots what Jurassic Park did for dinosaurs. Talk about an edge-of-your-seat movie! WooHoo!
Here’s an excellent interview with Daniel H. Wilson about Robopocalypse and how he got the idea.
Spoiler Alert – this video does contain some spoilers but not too many, thankfully.
If you’ve read Robopocalypse, or any other novels, short stories or articles by Daniel H. Wilson, we’d love to get your comments. We’d also love to hear your comments about this review and/or what you think about the upcoming film.
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