Sunday, May 20, 2012

Book 10: Robopocalypse

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

I liked the novel World War Z a lot, and loved the show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles so it is no surprise that I would pick up a novel about robots taking over the world narrated via a series of vignettes.

The novel begins with the final victory over the robot mastermind Archos after which human squads are left with the task of taking out unorganized, mindless robotic tools. Cormac "Bright Boy" Wallace and his team stumble upon one device that ends up containing the history of the New War, bringing together various footage of the men and women that fought against the robot takeover. While Cormac resists at first, he realizes that maybe these stories are worth saving, and begins to transcribe some of them. He notes that he couldn't possibly transcribe everything and that these are only a few of thousands of more stories contained in the black box record they discovered.

This of course helps explain why the narrative focuses on the people it does (the narrator ends up playing a prominent role in the novel). While World War Z gives snap shots from many different viewpoints, Robopocalypse doesn't quite follow through on this premise. Instead, it focuses on a smaller group of characters that will all end up related in some shape or form, and charts their progress. Many people in fact have several chapters devoted to them throughout the novel and its different parts.

It was definitely an enjoyable read, but I also think the beginning was more interesting - watching the development and spread of the "virus," the signs that the robots could be turning against the humans and how agencies reacted. The initial build-up to the New War, and its immediate aftermath were better developed than the follow on portions about the human resistance at which point it became the usual shoot 'em up narrative.

Also, since robots are sentient beings rather than mindless zombie hordes, I would have enjoyed a bit more about their possible motivations. In the very first vignette, Archos decides he wants to destroy humans, but I'm not entirely sure what the motivation was behind the human work camps established after the onset of the war, or even healing people's injuries at these camps (I didn't really get the impression that Archos was trying to create a human/robot super-being) unless it was simply to use them as bait for resistance fighters. While one character makes this point in passing, it seemed like this was one of the results of the labor camps, not the reasons for its existence.

Overall, definitely a fun read, but given the choice between World War Z and Robopocalypse, I would go with World War Z because I liked that novel's global approach to the zombie epidemic, and it also had a few stories that dealt specifically with the aftermath of the zombie wars, showing how society had to rebuild and pick up the pieces afterwards. Given some of the things brought up in Robopocalypse, it definitely would have been interesting to see how humans would rebuild and act in this post-apocalyptic world and how they would deal with some of the reprecussions of this technological revolution.

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