three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
54-Sept-Oct-2011
user_rating: 
0

A-RobopocalypseIn Robopocalypse, his fiction debut, former robotics engineer Daniel H. Wilson envisions global mayhem at the hands of our digital brethren. Wilson's previous nonfiction includes Where's My Jetpack: A Guide to the Amazing Science Fiction Future That Never Arrived (2007), Mad Scientist Hall of Fame: Muwahahaha! (2008), and How to Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion (2005).

The Story: In the aftermath of a global apocalypse, photojournalist-cum-warrior Cormac "Bright Boy" Wallace examines Archos, the godlike, antagonistic entity that escaped from its digital prison and set its fellow machines loose on the world. The machines "want me to remember and write it all down," Wallace reports. His narrative, drawn from the memory of Archos, unravels the events that precipitated the bloodiest war in human history--a struggle between robots and humans. "Nobody should ever have to see what we saw," Wallace says, as he relives the violence through the eyes of the heroes who fought to save the world.
Doubleday. 347 pages. $25. ISBN: 9780385533850.

io9 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Robopocalypse has a kind of swashbuckling, all-American swagger to it that stands in stark contrast to the brooding cyberpunkery of another great robot uprising tale, The Matrix. ... It's a blockbuster premise wrapped around a true science fiction tale that could change the way you think about robots, and the humans they live with." Annalee Newitz

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"In this story of a global robotic revolution, Wilson's malevolent machines have surprisingly nuanced motives, and a few of the vignettes, particularly one about the chilling fate of an Alaskan drill team, could even stand alone as great horror short fiction. It's worth reading before Spielberg's version of Robopocalypse hits screens in 2013--and before the army of factory-built roboclones starts to arrive." Keith Staskiewicz

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"While the novel is packed with thriller-type cinematic action--swarms of self-directed napalm bombs, towering automated cranes ripping the roofs off factories, robot-operated zombies--and the aforementioned blood and terror, it has a heart, too. It may well take one of the medium's masters to translate all that to film." Nisi Shawl

Newsday 3 of 5 Stars
"The highest compliment that can be paid Robopocalypse--and it's a pretty good one--is that it will make a totally badass movie. ... When the dust settles, though, it becomes apparent that the robots in the story are a little more interesting to Wilson than their human foes, and when they're removed from the settings where we first meet them, it becomes harder and harder to tell apart Wilson's acid-washed everydudes." Sam Thielman

Wall Street Journal 3 of 5 Stars
"After imagining such all-pervasive mayhem, Mr. Wilson has a hard task making the eventual human resistance even look plausible. But at least we are not in the familiar post-apocalypse scenario, with all the survivors killing one another for food: The robots take care of all the killing." Tom Shippey

Washington Post 1.5 of 5 Stars
"With a title like Robopocalypse, you don't expect Daniel H. Wilson's novel about computers gone mad to be a work of Proustian sophistication, but the real surprise is what a groaner it is. Even by the cornball standards of the original Battlestar Galactica, this is a frakkin' disaster, a literary version of Windows Me--much hyped but prone to crash." Ron Charles

Critical Summary

Robopocalypse--part tech-thriller, part apocalyptic nightmare--inevitably brings to mind The Terminator, Independence Day, and Battlestar Galactica, among many others, although Daniel H. Wilson's debut is more than a homage to robot-uprising tales. Because of--or, perhaps, despite--the novel's cinematic qualities (Steven Spielberg was storyboarding the film before the ink was dry on the page proofs), critics either praised the broad brushstrokes and the facile existential darkness that often characterize end-of-the-world stories, or they were turned off by the very aspects of the novel that made it a hot summer read and a best seller. The book's episodic structure, quick cuts, and nonstop action (read: tech-gore) will no doubt please more fans than they will turn off. Wilson and Spielberg have a hit on their hands.