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Robopocalypse Book Review: mechanically terrifying

Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse is a grindingly scary account of robots rising up against the human race.

Robopocalypse is told in the present tense through its narrator and makeshift historian Cormac Wallace. It details the rise of an artificial intelligence, Archos, amongst the human population and the robots need to wipe out its creators. The narrative bounces from human to human to robot to robot and mechanically slots in tragedy after tragedy whilst commenting and destroying humanity. There was a worry, early on, that Wilson would tell disjointed stories without tying them together but Cormac Wallace always rears his head to fill the void.

Wilson, who holds a PhD in robotics, is fittingly harsh and detailed in his prose. This is a bloody and gory affair that never pulls its punches. Whilst it is crafted like a clean and well-oiled machine, it has all the inner workings and gooey insides of a human being.

One must also admire how different Wilson has made an already over told story – that of artificial intelligence smiting its creator. The robots don’t feel like the ones we see on screen or in big blockbuster films, they feel tangible and in our reach. The robot at the head of the revolution, Archos, is not your typical all-powerful robot. Archos bounces around like a jolly child, it flits and fancies and toys with humanity but is always conflicted in its intentions. The result is a refreshingly grand but small account of a war between two species – one looking to grow and rule and one looking to survive with its backs against the wall.

In some cases, the book loses humanity and interest as it delves too deep to satisfy its author’s personal interests but that can be attributed to individual characters. Like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novella, some characters work, others don’t – it is the pitfall when writing in so many distinct and larger than life personalities.

Robopocalypse doesn’t end humanity’s plight with a period but rather a comma. It isn’t a complete story and I would thoroughly look towards an addition to this machine. In the end, Daniel H. Wilson’s story may be too cold to invest all readers but that doesn’t lessen its importance and mechanically frightening message.

Score – ★★★



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