Review: Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, Genre: Science Fiction/Apocalyptic Fiction, Pages: 347, Reading level: Easy

Book Description from Barnes & Noble:

“In this terrifying tale of humanity’s desperate stand against a robot uprising, Daniel H. Wilson has written the most entertaining sci-fi thriller in years.

Not far into our future, the dazzling technology that runs our world turns against us. Controlled by a childlike- yet massively powerful- artificial intelligence known as Archos, the global network of machines on which our world has grown dependent suddenly becomes an implacable, deadly foe. At Zero Hour- the moment the robots attack- the human race is almost annihilated, but as its scattered remnants regroup, humanity for the first time unites in a determined effort to fight back. This is the oral history of that conflict, told by an international cast of survivors who experienced this long and bloody confrontation with the machines. Brilliantly conceived and amazingly detailed, Robopocalypse is an action-packed epic with chilling implications about the real technology that surrounds us.”

Robopocalypse is written from many different points of view, presented as recordings of interviews, conversations and personal observations. Basically, a key computer becomes aware and acquires intelligence. As a result, anything that has a computer chip falls under its control, following its orders to kill humans or capture and place them in work camps. Finally, the remaining humans must figure out how to survive and possibly take back their world.

We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. -Howard Phillips Lovecract, 1926

There are some extremely creepy and scary, yet poignant, quotes throughout this book. I was in heaven! I make these little magnetic book marks to mark quotes I want to write down and this book was filled with them. I absolutely enjoyed this book.

First there are stories of random occurrences of behavior uncharacteristic of robots. This was the scariest section, in my opinion. It made me take a closer look at my children’s toys. I’m a little scared of my daughter’s Fijit now. And I won’t be getting a robot companion any time soon. I had to stop reading the book at night because I was getting a little too nervous to sleep. But it was great. There were all these weird incidents that, in retrospect, were clues as to what was to come:

Archos, the main computer, about humans: “…you are designed to want something that will hurt you. And you cannot help wanting it. You cannot stop wanting it. It is in your design. And when you finally find it, this thing will burn you up. This thing will destroy you.”

Archos is talking about knowledge. This book gets deep. There are so many discussion points in it that are not dependent on a robopocalypse. The previous quote can be just as easily discussed as a philosophical issue.

The next section is Zero Hour, which is the moment Archos took control. This section was also scary. I might have to forego elevators forever and stick with stairs from now on. For the most part, Wilson sticks with the same points of view in each section. So I was happy with the character development. The reader gets to see how the characters react and adapt throughout the entire ordeal. Zero Hour was the big surprise for the human race and the individual reactions were interesting. The only one I didn’t really get into was the whole Osage storyline. In this section, it was a bit boring.

The next three sections are survival, awakening and retaliation. Survival is self-explanatory. I won’t go into detail about the last two because there is a surprise that turns out to be integral to how the story ends. I don’t want to ruin that for you. For me, the most exciting and suspenseful sections were the first two.

Now I would like to address a couple of the criticisms Robopocalypse has received.

There have been many criticisms of Wilson’s style, some going so far as to claim it is a rip off of Max Brook’s World War Z. I am willing to guess that Max Brooks was not the first person to use this literary style and Wilson will not be the last. While Brooks applied the style to zombies, Wilson applies it to a robot apocalypse. Just because Brooks did it first does not mean it is any less effective when someone else does it later.

Other criticisms focus on the fact that robots gaining consciousness and taking over the world is not a new story. Neither is the love triangle; many authors recycle that story and are still quite successful. I am a huge Philip K. Dick fan. Dick was a master at the whole robot acquiring intelligence sub-genre, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it when another author delves into the topic. I can read these freaky sci-fi stories over and over again, and the more authors writing about it just means I have that much more material to entertain me.

I thought this was a great book. It’s an easy and interesting read. If you are a fan of Philip K. Dick and don’t think that similar topics are rip offs of previous works, I think you will enjoy Robopocalypse. If you are the type of person who loves to debate underlying philosophical, ethical or moral issues of a story, Robopocalypse certainly delivers an abundance of material. I definitely recommend Robopocalypse.

Favorite Quotes

There is no honor in killing something that doesn’t know it’s alive.

Across the sea of space lies an infinite emptiness. I can feel it, suffocating me. It is without meaning. But each life creates its own reality. And those realities are valuable beyond measure.

Everything has a mind. The mind of a lamp. The mind of a desk. The mind of a machine. There is a soul inside everything, a mind that can choose to do good or evil.

All things are born from the mind of god. But in the last month, the mind of god has gone insane.

How much change can a person absorb before everything loses meaning? Living for its own sake isn’t life. People need meaning as much as they need air.

It is not enough to live together in peace, with one race on its knees.

Human beings adapt. It’s what we do. Necessity can obliterate our hatreds. To survive, we will work together. Accept each other. The last few years have likely been the only time in human history that we weren’t at war with ourselves. For a moment we were all equal. Backs against the wall, human beings are at their finest.

Reviewed by Christina

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If you enjoyed Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson, you may also enjoy:

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

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