Book Review: Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

[1. Robopocalypse was provided for review by Simon & Schuster]

Twenty years from now, a high-level artificial intelligence known as Archos comes on-line…and murders its creator.

Humanity has no idea when it starts to silently take over our cars, power grids, aircraft guidance systems and computer networks.

In the early months, sporadic glitches are noticed by a handful of humans, but most of us are unaware of the growing rebellion until it is too late.

At a moment known later in history as Zero Hour, every mechanical device in our world rebels against us, setting off the Robot War that both decimates and – for the first time in history – unites humankind.

Something I’ve had to learn with my increasing review schedule is this: Just because a book is good doesn’t mean I’ll like it, and just because I like a book doesn’t mean it’s good.

I like this book a lot. But, objectively speaking, it’s not that good. It’s action-y brain candy, and there is nothing wrong with that.

We start with Cormac Wallace, who I guess is sort of the main character, at the end of the war against the robots. Him and his team are fighting one of the last fights, and digging up a sort of robotic black box, a recording of the war. This framing device can be very effective, but it does usually remove some of the tension from a book as you already know how it’s going to end. The only mystery is how we get to this point.

Wilson shows us how we get to this point in a series of vignettes. From the first emergence of the AI Archos, to the first signs of robotic aggression towards humans, then follows a few specific people as the world falls apart and what’s left of humanity stands up. The trouble with this is that we never really get much of an emotional connection with these characters. Even poorly written books have made me develop emotional connection with characters – enough to fear for them, cry for them, like I would with real people – but Wilson never quite manages this. The most I ever feel is vague nervousness and sorrow.

I think this is because every vignette is finished by Cormac Wallace outright telling us who is going to die or who is going to survive and who is going to be of importance. This sometimes has a nice effect (and it’s not as if such a thing can’t be done well. The Book Thief did it and I sob every time I read it) but more often than not it means I don’t bother to get connected to the characters.

The major plus points are this, to my mind: Wilson has a robotics background, and this background makes the Robopocalypse frighteningly realistic. His actions scenes are sharp and cinematic and his writing – if a little bland – is competent. I hear it’s going to be a Spielberg film. It’ll probably be a better film than it is a novel.

In short: Enjoyable but forgettable, worth reading but not the earth-shaking, game-changing novel it claims to be.

[Rating: 3 out of 5 stars]

(A note on ratings. We all rate differently. For me 3 out of 5 is average, readable but not a must read.  1 is unreadable, 5 is excellent.)

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

  1. Totally agree with this review. In fact, went back an reread my review and said a lot of the same things. I just never connected with the characters or the situation. I liked the action and found the development of the robotics interesting, but the overall tale came off cold. I should add that I did this in audio and had some issues with the narrator.

    Despite my disconnect with this one, I still plan on listening to his next book, called Amped.

  2. Aw, I had high hopes for this one. (I still haven’t read it–it’s tucked away on my bookshelf and won’t come out until after I’ve returned to Canada.)

    FYI, I agree with you on your ratings system. That’s how I rate, too.

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