Hey, did you like Max Brooks’ novel World War Z ? Did you love the structure, the multitude of accounts woven together to form a much larger story of survival? Well, Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson is a fun read but a weak substitute.
In brief: sometime in the near future, a sentient AI has taken control of the worlds’ robots and has mostly wiped out humanity. This novel is a concentration of accounts that detail how humans fought back. It’s only possible to avoid comparisons with WWZ if you haven’t read WWZ, and unfortunately Robopocalypse suffers for that comparison.
While I love the structure/format, and the overall story was interesting, this book really left me wanting more. It focuses mostly on maybe half a dozen people, and returns to their contributions repeatedly. That leaves us with a fairly narrow view of this war, which in my opinion somewhat defeats the purpose of the structure. Give me more people’s POVs! Focus less on these few bands of survivors and this America-centric resistance, and give me a wider scope! The entire thing just felt a little under-realized, like it was a rough draft where Wilson had penciled in “fill in technical details later.”
As an example, “Freeborn” robots (ie robots with their own sense of self, not under the Evil AI’s control) are brought online 3/4 of the way through the narrative. The events that leads to this are:
- at the end of a chapter, a guy finds something (??? technology? hardware upgrade? computer chip?) in an enemy robot that apparently makes him conclude this is the key to liberating other robots from the AI control
- we pick back up with him several months later and he’s just finished installing (??) the upgrade (???) into his fav robot
- the AI knows this has happened (how??) and starts to attack
- the fav robot sings, out loud, an actual song
- Freeborn robots exist now, all over the world
Like, how?? What happened? How did it happen? It’s a cool concept, but I need more information. I don’t really know how to explain myself here…, but unlike WWZ, the enemy here is mechanical. So there should be reasons that things are happening, beyond ‘oh it’s a medical mystery and we just don’t understand.’
Anyway. Overall, it was a good book that I was happy to speed my way through. I wish that Wilson had really utilized the structure he chose, and that he had better fleshed out the actual methods used against the machines. There were too many elements in here that were Deus Ex Machina (so to speak) for me to love it. I will be checking out more from Wilson in the future, with tempered expectations. It’s a fun story if you don’t think too hard about it.