Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: Robopocalypse

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the acknowledgement section at the end of this novel, the author mentions that a major motion picture studio was enthusiastic about the work. That was not really surprising to me since this book reads as much like a movie treatment for the next big sci-fi thriller as a science fiction novel. Like many action thrillers, this book has the planet Earth going all to hell with something hunting down all the human beings. Instead of zombies like in AMC's well-known The Walking Dead television series or alien invaders like in TNT's less-well-known Falling Skies, the threat here comes from computers, robots and various computer-controlled devices like cars and tanks. That can easily be surmised from the book's title plus the cover art featuring a zoomed-in robot face. With its robot antagonists, the novel resembles The Matrix and Terminator movie series.

Unlike all of the previously mentioned works which mainly focus on a lone hero or small group of co-located characters, this novel jumps between groups of characters dispersed across the globe. Outside of the initial coalescing of the core groups, the various groups rarely interact directly with the other groups. The primary characters are a pair of Boston brothers. One of the brothers is a sergeant with the local National Guard unit and a natural-born leader. The other is a screw-up and would-be photojournalist. Other protagonists include a United States Congresswoman and her two young children, a construction worker and his wife in New York City, a policeman who is also a Native American tribal leader in Oklahoma, his son who is a robot wrangler in the Army and stationed in Afghanistan, an ├╝ber-geeky phone phreak in London, and finally a brilliant robot repairman in Japan who is much more comfortable around his robot companions than other flesh-and-blood humans.

The final outcome is known from the prologue, but there are plenty of surprising twists and turns as the story unfolds. Along the way, there are several moments of the hopeful Rodney King "Can we all get along?" variety. Again, this book reads more like a movie than a novel. The characters are the barely-developed, two-dimensional type that are expected in the cinema world but are disappointing in a full-length novel. Of course, I expect fleshing out personalities is difficult with such a widely spread ensemble cast. In summary, this book was an exciting thrill ride but quite disappointing on the character development side.

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