Saturday, January 21, 2012

Book Review: Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

Robopocalypse: A Novel by Daniel H. Wilson

A British hacker, a U.S. congresswomen, and a Japanese scientist walk into an apocalypse...Sounds like the beginning of one of those jokes you remember hearing but can't repeat because it is far too complicated and if you try to tell it, you'll miss some key set ups for the punchline. How did that punchline go again?

Like a fine tuned joke, Daniel H. Wilson's Robopocalypse is a tightly intertwined narrative of a near-future robot uprising lead by the malicious artificial intelligence Archos. Archos is a program that some computer scientists have been trying and trying to perfect but can't quite seem to get right. Eventually, Archos manages to free himself from his captors/creators. He is able to direct all the other robots (who have been integrated into almost every facet of life) and begins a war against humanity. The robot apocalypse has begun.

The story is told through a variety of personal narratives that have been collected after the end of the war, much like Max Brooks' World War Z. At first the different stories don't seem related. A British hacker named Lurker stumbles into contact with the villianous AI. A U. S. congresswomen supports a "robot defense act" that would put limits on robot use (and thus frustrate Archos's plans); her children are threatened by their toy robots. A Japanese factory worker has a companion robot that runs amok.  Many other characters populate the story. Eventually, they come in contact with each other and all contribute to the war on robots in one way or another.

The story moves quickly and is an exciting read. Thematically it isn't too deep--the standard stuff about what it is to be human and can robots be human, etc., is presented but no new insights or ideas come up. The book earns a place in the pantheon of technothrillers like Jurassic Park and The Cardinal of the Kremlin.

Oh yeah, and there's a new sort of zombie towards the end of the book that was scary and gross and well done. Thanks Dr. Wilson!

For parents: there is some bloody violence throughout the book, some minor sexual innuendo, and swearing. You know your child best, but I would say this is good for young teenagers and up.


  1. Thank you or your review. This is a service that is really needed by any concerned parent.

  2. It's comfort reading that isn't terribly challenging, and reads like a screenplay for an awfully loud 3D movie coming to your local multiplex.