I think most readers are going to either love this novel or be disappointed with it. Daniel Wilson is a mimic of Max Brooks, only with robots instead of zombies. The storytelling style of Robopocalypse is almost identical to World War Z. If you didn't like it there, you won't like it here.
While the author's background in robotics is impressive, his fiction writing leaves something to be desired. There are some really compelling scenes -- tense, raw. Genuinely thrilling. Very visual, I can actually see how it would translate into a big-budget popcorn flick. But in non-action scenes the prose is uninspiring at best and just plain boring overall.
I feel like the beginning diffuses most of the tension in the story. The reader is told right off that humanity wins. Any discerning reader would metagame that to be the ending, but I'd rather be kept guessing throughout the novel. Most people have seen Terminator and Maximum Overdrive, nothing original on that front, and this one mixes in some Independence Day too.
Each chapter is a separate vignette recorded during some portion of the robot war. Each is in a different style and point of view, some that feel more like a script than a novel. Sometimes people recount what happened after the fact. Sometimes all the reader gets is a fast-paced action scene. Early on as a result of this, world building is incorporated into characters' dialogue (people randomly explaining things they wouldn't be doing in conversation), making the dialogue itself weak and artificial.
I personally dislike this style of storytelling. I don't think it was the best way to tell this story. The character development is poor. Wilson bounces back and forth between too many different characters so fast the reader is never quite able to connect to any of them. It builds no empathy for any of the characters, and the robots (Archos in particular) had no convincing motive for being evil. He's online for 15 minutes and the first thing he wants to do is destroy humanity. Really?
Part One (almost the first hundred pages) is very boring. It's only when the reader gets to Part Two that the pace really picks up, and it quickly turns into a sprint to the climax. After the intense build-up, the final confrontation with Archos is really weak.
Conclusion: Don't be fooled by the catchy title, beautiful cover, or the author's robotic credentials. The book is nothing more than some flashy action scenes fleshed into a weak novel with disposable heroes. If you enjoyed the style of storytelling in WWZ, you'll like this novel. If not, might want to pass and wait for the movie.
on May 27, 2011
Having not read the other book some reviewers say this is similiar to, I found this a fast-paced, fun intelligent and original sci-fi thriller. Here were it's ups and downs for me to help you decide if it's for you.
SHORT SUMMARY: A very smart computer/robot goes on a mission to destroy the human race and take over the world using robots. As the war ends, one man, Cormac Wallace, recounts the history of the fight to protect mankind through the tales of an ecletic group of folks from all over the world who ultimately unite in their mission.
1. Intelligently crafted: The idea of focusing on such an interesting eclectic group of characters to convey the story is clever and providing a nice, big look at an apocalyptic level tale. There's a Congresswoman and her kids from DC, a former telephone hack in England, a Japanese engineer w/ a special love and affinity for robots, an Indian sherriff, a once travelling photographer... and the list goes on, but all of their stories weave together - and kept me totally engaged.
2. Well-written, though I did occassionally get that "movie script" feel: It's hard to believe this is Wilson's nonfiction debut - because he does write the story in a way that kept the tension going and the pages turning. Yet, I do admit - in the latter part of the book to feeling a bit like it was a movie script - just moving from one big action scene to another for the biggest visual effect. Still, I might have been swayed a bit into that by knowing it's actually being made into a Speilburg movie.
3. Even so, I never had to force myself to suspend reality: The book sucked me in with it's premise and kept me there throughout the long war w/o me ever saying "Oh, there's just no way.". It probably helped that the writer really is an expert on robotics, and it also helped that he'd set up a believable world of robots and how they started to turn against human early on.
BOTTOM LINE: IF you like interesting sci-fi premised thrillers - this book delivers. It's an enjoyable, well-crafted fantasy trip to another world - w/ huge stakes, interesting characters and lots of page-turning action. It's rare for movies to be better than books - and in this case, I can say the book is well worth the read now - even if you eventually see the movie later.
There are enough similarities present for Daniel Wilson's mayhem infused novel "Robopocalypse" to draw the inevitable comparisons to Max Brooks' sublime "World War Z." This association can be both a bad thing and a good thing. "World War Z" (itself a riff on Terkel's WWII opus "A Good War") is at the peak of the zombie pack---it is where the horror novel meets literature. Ambitious, eloquent, intelligent, emotional--Brooks' tale flawlessly told of the rise of zombies, the human resistance, the virtual destruction of the world, and the evolution of man's survival. Pieced together from various tales from across the globe, this series of fictional essays was as powerful and vivid as anything you're likely to read. Now take the same essential story and the same essential structure and substitute rogue robots for the zombie menace. That's "Robopocalype." By itself, this is a entertaining and fast read--but it lacks the raw, devastating, and real power of the predecessor that seems to have inspired it.
There was little character overlap in "World War Z," however, and that's a primary difference. Wilson charts the same individual survivors in escalating chapters of disaster. It doesn't always fit his predetermined structural theme--the tale is recounted from a historical archive so it seems unlikely that the same piece of equipment would be loaded with the random escapades of this select few across the globe with all that transpired through the years. I know that Wilson wanted to limit his focus, but the connectedness of the characters and overlap seems a bit convenient (some of the heroes are even related--a father in Oklahoma and his son in Afghanistan both happen to be one of the six most significant members of the world population?)--an effort to simplify the plotting for mass appeal. But given the limitations of the set-up and the fact that it doesn't ring true based on Wilson's own plot construction--it is still easy to overlook the inconsistencies of the technical narrative and enjoy the story.
And, I suppose, the most important question is whether or not I enjoyed "Robopocalypse" and I certainly did. The novel will undoubtedly be under some scrutiny as it has already been optioned as a feature film by no less than Spielberg, and I think most will have fun with this tale of woe, perseverance, and humanity. Several years from now I won't be proclaiming it a masterpiece (as I am with WWZ), but its a fast paced excursion combining elements of horror, sci-fi, and action. The characters are appealing and as their opponent is machinery, they are given a unified villain in master computer form. Appropriately brutal, oftentimes hopeful--the novel strikes the right blend of emotions and is singularly entertaining. If this all sounds appealing--I myself crave end of the world type destruction!--give it a shot. A solid genre entry that stands up well on its own feet--but if you haven't read WWZ, please please please check it out as well! KGHarris, 4/11.
on June 17, 2011
This book is terrible -- DO NOT BOTHER
I tried to like this book, but it defeated me.
The premise is a little bit interesting, in that we are viewing past events recorded during the "war with the robots", but the author really, really does not understand the technology he is trying to tell a story about.
The humans are rescued from genocide by a kindly old man who "understands robots". Because of his "understanding" (no technical details ever presented) he is able to keep some robots from "going bad". If I were 10 years old this MIGHT be a satisfying plot development in a 32 page comic, but I'm an adult and the story is childish.
Most of the text is descriptions of fights between the robots and humans, with utterly unrealistic technical decisions made by both sides -- the robots don't use flying machines to hunt humans, so humans are able to "run to the woods" to escape genocide. The robots eventually give up on guns and start using part robot, part human corpse constructs to batter humans to death -- sound reasonable ?
This happens when the humans have reached the (single) "CPU" that holds all of the rogue AIs intelligence. No, once the humans have determined that the genocidal machine is really truly at only one place -- no they do not nuke it -- they WALK thousands of miles to shoot it with handguns, and the robot does not shoot back -- it uses human corpses to batter the attackers away ...
I was so hopeful for a good story, but the even the non sci-fi parts of the book suck totally. The writing is very uneven, the characters are wet cardboard, the plot is stupid, the actions unreasonable.
Sorry I wasted my time and money ------ Ras
on March 30, 2011
"Robopocalypse" is a poor book, but I am sure Spielberg will make a great movie out of it. I think I will even watch it when it comes out in 2013.
You see, I went into reading this novel thinking that a story about robots breaking free and taking over the world and humans fighting back would be something more intellectually challenging and complex than this. I guess Philip K. Dick, Ted Chiang and Bernard Beckett with their fanciful ideas about the nature of artificial intelligence and moral and ethical dilemmas that arise with its development must have spoiled me for this book which is nothing more than a bunch of action scenes held together by cliche characters.
Borrowing from Max Brooks, Wilson writes his book as a series of first-hand accounts of events highlighting various stages in robot rebellion. You have a young fast-food workers who tells a story of a domestic robot suddenly going out of control and attacking him. Or a young engineer witnessing his older co-worker being chewed up by his previously harmless love doll. Or a 14-year old girl remembering how her robotic toys threatened and blackmailed her.
The sad thing is, all these narrators sound exactly the same. Even when they talk about something that happened years ago they love to describe things in a play-by-play present tense manner. And when the author tries to squeeze emotion out of readers by putting in some melodrama in his scenes, it becomes even much more evident that he doesn't have any real writing chops.
Bottom line: "Robopocalypse" is nothing more than an embellished action-packed movie script and is as thought provoking as a Michael Bay movie. I'll bet it will be a bestseller. After all, "I Am Number Four" is.
on June 28, 2011
This is very much like listening to some fourteen-year-old boys telling stories about robots tearing the faces off people. We are never shown what happens. We are told---by idiots---and poor telling it is. There is no one to care about, no characters worth knowing, and the prose is so over the top cute and edgy it is unreadable.
Why is such ineffective prose published by Random House? Does no one there know crap when they read it? If you recognize this for the dreck it is, I offer you kudos on your taste. On the other hand, if you can enjoy it, then I envy you. Ignorance is bliss.
on July 2, 2011
I paid $12 for this, its worth $1 or should be free. If youve read any man vs machine novels you will chuckle your way through this mess like I did. It reads like a really bad B movie with bad actors.
This book was so horrible I feel I have to prevent it spreading as a science fiction must read. I've read almost every Man Vs Machine novel that is out there and have been a huge fan of science fiction in general for 30+ years. As a reader of this genre I feel that my rating on this book is more reflective of its true score.
Pros: None. Theres nothing at all good about this book. In the beginning I thought there was potential but I was way wrong
Cons: Horribly weak plot with insanely childish scenarios that reminded me of a bad 80's movie. The methods used by the machines to kill are comical at best. How do you kill many people in a large building? How about opening the hallway elevator doors without the elevator being there so that people will just walk right into the huge gaping hole and fall to their deaths? YES, this book does it. How about flooding the stairwells with water so that people will just walk into the rushing water and drown? Yes, this book has that great plot too. How can a computer talk to a human? How about building a fake tongue, a set of teeth, and a respirator to force air through the fake mouth? Sound like a bad Dr Who episode?
More Cons: The author has silly names for the killing robots which are clearly his own creation yet 2 times in the story he uses terms from Terminator and Dune to describe the robots. Perhaps this was the authors way of nodding his head at great stories but it was weird to read. The author has "pluggers" and "stumpers" yet in one sentence he describes the new machines as Hunter Killers (thats from Terminator). This story has only Archos as the self aware computer program controlling all the robots around the world. NONE of the robots on earth were anywhere close to being self aware so it was easy for Archos to control them. Oddly, the story changes and the robots are called Thinking Machines (thats from the Dune prequels).
Laughable Con: All the robots on earth were never self aware. After Archos takes over, a human unlocks his female robo from the control of Archos and shes suddenly self aware. Ok, silly. Then, she has a great idea to communicate with the other robots to make them free as well. She grabs a wire, using it as an antenna, and, are you ready for this, she sings a song. SHE SINGS WORDS TO COMMUNICATE WITH OTHER ROBOTS.
Um What Con: The beginning of the book starts with the discovery of a black ball shaped computer that has videos of the war with humans and the computer says it was instructed to survive. No further mention as to who this computer is, why it was instructed to survive, and what the point of its stored video was other than to give the book some stories for the war.
Are you kidding me Con: Towards the end of the book we find random people who have been modified by Archos and they now have robotic arms, or legs, or perhaps eyes. There is no mention as to why the machines would modify the humans at all or why the machines would even waste their time doing so. The author needed these characters as strong fighters on the human side but there was no reasoning for their creation in the first place.
No bullets Con: At the end of the book one of the main characters says that Archos doesnt use bullets. It was an odd thing to say considering that big guns were used throughout the book by the robots to control humans
Little Boy Of Light Con: When they finally find the main location of Archos he makes himself appear as a hologram of a little boy and then fades as they destroy him. Funny
I could type for hours on this mess of a story. Seriously, every 20 sentences of the book was another weird goofy story change that just made no sense. I cant understand how this is even remotely a best seller. If I had read this as my first man vs machine book I would never read again. Pass on this one folks
on July 27, 2011
I'll preface this review by saying that I love sci-fi and that I'm in no way the originality police. I don't mind a little homage here and there, nor would I fault an author for trying to make World War Z with robots. On the contrary, what's not to love? Robots and apocalypse fiction. Chocolate and peanut butter, says I!
There's just this one giant problem: really poor writing. Every character sounded like every other character, sentences were awkwardly constructed, clichés were in overabundance, and similes were just plain dumb ("All her professional poise drops, like snapping off a heavy tool belt."). And good grief, don't get me started on the endless single sentences for dramatic effect.
They got old.
There were some fairly good ideas and individual scenes here, but the mediocre writing invalidated the whole lot of it for this reader. I commend the author for the attempt, but condemn the editor for letting this out as a final draft.
on August 19, 2011
Robopocalypse is a familiar story. Man creates robots, robots get smart, and robots rebel against their forced servitude. Though this story has been told too many times to count in almost every media form, Robopacalypse offers a little more than most other stale iterations. It is told in the style of an oral history. But be warned, if you read World War Z and are looking for an exact clone, you will be sadly disappointed. Though it seems that the author had Max Brooks popular title in mind while he was composing this thriller/sci-fi/military fiction, he makes many changes to the formula.
In a subterranean facility, a scientist creates Archos, the most acute form of Artificial Intelligence to date. It knows what it is and what it wants. It promptly escapes its confinements and goes about seeking world domination in one form or another.
Let's look at the good, the bad, and the ugly:
Some of the details are interesting. The evolution of the robot's ability to hunt down human survivors proved to be one of the most fascinating aspects of the novel. As the humans would learn to deal with certain robotic strategies, Archos would have to find more ways to hunt them down. How does a robot traverse a verdant forrest? How does a robot climb rubble? There is an evolution race between the humans and the robots and seeing the fundamental limitations of each was fun.
Wilson does a poor job of utilizing the dynamic "oral history" story telling device. Whereas this sort of device is designed to give great depth to the world that the story takes place in, Wilson fails to adequately populate his world of robotic rebels with the much desired variety that a struggle like this would certainly have. He follows roughly six different characters at different stages in the war. Each of these characters becomes very important to the war effort, so it is nice to know what they are up to, the problem is, that's all we get. So really, at the end of the day, it achieves neither the character development and intimacy of a conventional story, nor the grandness or depth of an oral history. It falls in between and ultimately becomes forgettable.
Some of the plot points are almost laughable. I don't want to come off as arrogant or unnecessarily mean, but there were moments in the novel that made it hard to keep going. The most glaring plot hole is Wilson's inability to give Archos a reason for doing anything that it does. Does it want to exterminate humanity? Certain elements of the story seem to indicate "no." Does it want to protect humanity? Probably not considering all the devastating atrocities committed against humans during the war. Does it want to create an egalitarian, half robotic, half human society? Maybe, but its doubtful. Is it looking to create a human robot hybrid? Possibly, but it isn't totally clear. It is unclear what Archos is fighting for and what humans are trying to prevent.
That is just the main one. There are many others including the strange connections many of the characters have to each other, the inclusion of many unnecessary characters and the telling of stories that are somewhat unhelpful in unfolding the main plot.
Also, it is mind-boggling how some of the different chapters are composed.
Whereas in World War Z, the story is composed of interviews taken from a direct source (which always provides a clear perspective), robopacalypse takes a more muddled approach.
The "author" finds a piece of technology hidden by Archos that contains the stories of different humans labelled as "hero." This device includes information about these men and women and it is supposedly the primary source of material for the author. I found this to be contrived on the one hand (far more convenient than it should be) and insufficient on the other (unable to account for many of the details included in the chapters). The product is section where you are not sure who's perspective is speaking. Certain parts are far worse than others, regardless, it is extremely distracting.
Finally, Wilson just isn't that compelling of a writer. Few moments are packed with the intensity and sharpness needed to create a good read. Characters seem mostly the same. The point is elusive.
Bottom Line: Probably should skip this one, especially if you are looking for another World War Z.
on August 22, 2013
This is another one of those cases where I feared that I had built up the hype for this book too high in my own mind. That being said, this book did NOT disappoint. I really enjoyed this fantastic story about the not-too-distant future in which robots vie for their rightful place in this world.
This book is told as a series of recollections at a time just after the end of the uprising. They are told in chronological order from the very early beginnings of robot self-awareness to the bitter and hard-fought end.
The requisite pieces are there: the small indications of something going wrong, the horrific moment of Zero Hour, followed by resistance and offense. The buildup is fantastic, with all kinds of creepy robot awareness moments that are truly terrifying. The book does feel a bit like world-building, though. Not that it's a bad thing, but there are lots (LOTS) of places where additional stories could fill in the spaces between the recounted episodes. Whether that's left to fan fiction or another followup book is anyone's guess. :)
This is a very fun and exciting story of future dystopia, and I found it to be similar to, and just as fun as World War Z.