Amazon Best Books of the Month, June 2011:In the not-too-distant future, robots have made our lives a lot easier: they help clean our kitchens, drive our cars, and fight our wars--until they are turned into efficient murderers by a sentient artificial intelligence buried miles below the surface of Alaska. Robopocalypse is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller that makes a strong case that mindless fun can also be wildly inventive. The war is told as an oral history, assembled from interviews, security camera footage, and first- and secondhand testimonies, similar to Max Brook's zombie epic World War Z. The book isn't shy about admitting to its influences, but author Daniel H. Wilson certainly owes more to Terminator than he does to Asimov. (A film adaptation is already in pre-production, with Steven Spielberg in the director's chair and a release date slated for 2013.) Robopocalypse may not be the most unique tale about the war between man and machine, but it's certainly one of the most fun. --Kevin Nguyen Guest Reviewer: Robert Crais
Robert Crais is the 2006 recipient of the Ross Macdonald Literary Award and the author of many New York Times bestsellers, including The Watchman, Chasing Darkness, The First Rule, and The Sentry.
Robopocalypse is as good as Michael Crichton's Andromeda Strain or Jurassic Park, and I do not invoke Mr. Crichton's name lightly.
Daniel Wilson’s novel is an end of the world story about a coming machine-versus-man war. You know the reader's cliché: “I couldn't stop turning the pages”? So shoot me--I couldn't. Started on a Friday afternoon, finished Sunday morning, and I'm slow. My daughter finished it in a single night, and then my wife. My wife hates science fiction, but she loved this book.
Set in a future only a few weeks away, the world is still our world, where advancements in silicon-chip technology and artificial intelligence have given us rudimentary android laborers and cars that can get around without human drivers.
The war begins the fourteenth time a scientist named Nicholas Wasserman wakes an amped-up artificial intelligence dubbed Archos. In a protected lab environment designed to contain his creation, Wasserman has awakened the sentient computer intelligence thirteen previous times, always with the same result: Archos realizes that it loves that rarest of miracles—life--above all else, and to preserve life on Earth, it must destroy mankind. This wasn't exactly what Wasserman wanted to hear, so thirteen times before, a disappointed Wasserman killed it and returned to the drawing board. But unlike Archos, Wasserman is a man, and men make mistakes. Now, on this fourteenth awakening, a simple (but believable) error by the scientist allows Archos to escape the barrier of the lab. And the war is on.
When Archos goes live, its control spreads like a virus as it reprograms the everyday devices of our lives, from cell phones to ATM machines to traffic lights to airliners. A normally benign "Big Happy" domestic robot murders a cook in a fast-food joint. A safety and pacification robot (think of an overgrown Ken doll with a dopey grin, designed to win hearts and minds) used by the army in Afghanistan (yes, we're still there) goes bad and kills dozens of people. And, in a particularly creepy scene, “smart toys” wake in their toy boxes at night to deliver ominous messages to children.
The book is rich with high-speed-action set pieces and evocative, often frightening imagery (smart cars stalking pedestrians; human corpses reanimated by machines into zombie warriors), but Robopocalype is a terrific and affecting read because it is about human beings we can relate to, invest in, and root for.
Among them: Cormac Wallace, a young photojournalist who escapes Boston at Zero Hour (the moment when Archos unleashes its machine army against humankind), and fights his way across the United States as the leader of a band of guerrillas known as the Brightboy squad. Takeo Nomura, a lonely technician in love with an android “love doll” named Mikiko, who, when she is reprogrammed by Archos, is driven by his love and sadness to fix her, an effort that will ultimately help turn the tide of the war. And Lurker, a pissed-off hacker and phone pranker furiously determined to identify the mysterious person who is taking the credit for his elaborate pranks . . . only to find himself in Archos's crosshairs and running for his life.
Little by little, the discoveries they (and others) make and the battles they fight lead to locating Archos, and the final battle for humanity's survival. By choosing to show us these events through the eyes of the men and women involved, Wilson gives us a high-speed, real-time history of the war on its most human level, and it is our investment in these characters and their desperate struggle that grabs us and pulls us along at a furious clip.
In lesser hands, the story could have been head-shot with pseudo-science technical jargon, overwrought explanation, and cartoonish characterizations. Instead, Wilson has given us a richly populated and thrilling novel that celebrates life and humanity, and the power of the human heart . . . even if that heart beats in a machine.