Knopf Doubleday

Knopf Doubleday

I had been eyeing Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse for a long time before I actually purchased the book for myself. Its cover always caught my eye when I was shelving or straightening up the Science Fiction section during my Barnes&Noble days, and I would frequently take a moment to read the plot summary on the back. But even after I purchased the novel, it sat on my shelf for a long while before I picked it up and actually read what was inside.

I’m not entirely sure what the hold up was – most likely I was trying to convince myself that I should read something that was work-related instead – but when I saw Wilson’s Robogenesis, apparently the second book in the series, on the New Arrivals table, I knew it was time to get my butt into gear. And now, having finally read it, all I can say is “Whoa.” 

Robopocalypse – a tale of modern technology gone amok – was even better than I was expecting, but at the same time, it was my exact futuristic nightmare. While I do think it is fairly unlikely that roboticists will be able to create a truly sentient artificial intelligence, there is no denying the inherent vulnerabilities that come from having so many devices networked together. And with so many things having computer chips in them these days – our cellphones and cars, for example – Wilson’s scenario of a super intelligent AI system taking over these devices and using them to hunt and kill human beings seems at least somewhat plausible to me.

As I mentioned on Monday, I also fall into the “Just because we can, should we?” camp and the incident that unleashes the murderous AI onto the world is essentially that: a scientist who is trying to create a super-intelligent artificial system, but doesn’t exactly think through the consequences of his actions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to hate on roboticists, it just seems to me that often times they are more interested in pushing the boundaries of what the machines we create can do than the ethical issues associated with their development or use.

Though Wilson’s story clearly drew me in, I also really liked his novel’s structure. First of all, it’s broken into different parts that focus on isolated incidents prior to the AI’s awakening, the zero hour in which it takes over the world’s machines, the human race’s survival and awakening about how it can fight back, and then its retaliation against the machines themselves.

There are about six different main characters that appear throughout the book, and the chapters jump around from one to the other, explaining what they are experiencing in their part of the world, as well as how their storylines are intersecting. While this construct can be a bit discombobulating for readers if used incorrectly, Wilson’s writing is smooth and the shifts seem fairly natural. He also uses one primary narrator to provide a bit more context at both the beginnings and ends of the chapters, which further helps the story feel like a cohesive whole.

Robopocalypse is an all-around fabulous book, and is the kind of novel that has me looking at creative writing classes because it makes storytelling seem like so much fun. Even if it is of the post-robopocalyptic variety.

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Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Six main characters? That seems like a lot, did you ever have trouble remembering which one was which? Did each of them stand out in your mind?
    I’m curious as to how the author approached that.

    Well written review, by the way!

    Reply
    • Thank you!! And six characters does seem like a lot, but the chapters switched back and forth between them fairly frequently so I didn’t really find myself forgetting who was who. The thing I did get a bit tripped up on though was the timing of everything.

      Robopocalypse covers a period of about three years and while each chapter comes with a time stamp (New War + 10 Months, for example), the intervals are not always six weeks, six months, what have you. So I did flip back and forth a few times to look at the time stamps, just to see how much time had passed between incidents.

      Reply

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