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Book Review

Book Cover



Author: Daniel H. Wilson
Simon & Schuster
RRP: £7.99, US $15.95
ISBN: 978 0 85720 414 1
Available 21 May 2012

It’s always a problematic proposition to review a book which had been optioned by Steven Spielberg, even before the book was finished. Expectations will either be ridiculously high, leading to disappointment, or the worrying thought that the author has created a screenplay rather than a novel will endlessly encroach upon the reader’s enjoyment. And so it is with this new novel.

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson, author of the popular How to Survive a Robot Uprising, postulates a world where Archos, a super human intelligence, is created, only to turn on its maker in an attempt to preserve planetary life, but without its human component.

The novel starts at the end of the war, thereby guaranteeing that you already know that the surviving humans succeed in killing Archos. The trick here is that apart from the narrator, you never know who will live and who will die. Cormac “Bright Boy” Wallace discovers an artefact which contains the recordings of people who Archos considered to be human heroes. This handy literary device allows Cormac to tell the rise and fall of the machines from individual perspectives, with each chapter telling a single story, which together forms the history of the war. As the histories progress, many, if not most, come together for the final confrontation. The final victory does feel a little hollow given that the book opens with the human triumph, therefore the foregone conclusion loses some of its elements of surprise.

You would have thought, given the hype, that the book would be brimming with originality, but oddly enough it isn’t. There are few ideas here which haven’t been previously explored in both print and on film. Ever since the rise of robots, Asimov’s essentially benign take on our new creations has not help sway, with many preferring to equate robots more with Shelly’s Frankenstein monster, with the same amount of inevitable cliché.

It seems that once you postulate a world where all machinery turns against its human creators, then there are only a limited number of way in which you can have the small amount of survivors gather together to discover the nemesis' weakness. Following which, they mount a last ditch, but undoubtedly heroic, last strike at the heart of the machine, which given that we are told they succeed at the very start of the book leaves little to look forward to.

It’s not that this is a bad novel, but with such interest I was expecting a lot more innovation, either in the ideas or their execution. The book is well constructed and well written, although the narrative lacks any real and significant depth. Just perfect for a summer blockbuster, which only requires incidents, but not innovation.


Charles Packer

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