Friday, April 19, 2013

The Robot War

RobopocalypseRobopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When the omnipresent robots begin slaughtering their human masters, a small group of survivors scattered across the world use their wits to fight back.

Cormac Wallace is a soldier who saw the war firsthand: from Zero Hour when smart cars began running people over in the street to the final battle to destroy Archos (Robopocalypse's Skynet). Wallace finds an archive of records made by Archos and pieces together stories of the people who ensured human victory over "Old Rob" (soldier slang for "robot"). This frame didn't always work logically, and the stories rely on a great deal of coincidence, but that didn't stop me racing through the pages.

Daniel H. Wilson is a roboticist who wrote How to Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion, so he's got killer robots on the brain. This solidly written novel pulls you into an iron grip and moves fast - I finished it in a day and my attention never flagged. There is a real tension as the survivors recount the eerie first days of the war, when trusted machines became the Enemy - parts of this could accurately be labeled horror.

The style and construction of the book are reminiscent of Max Brooks' World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. (And strangely enough, Brooks wrote his own survival guide for his particular brand of apocalypse: The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead. I guess great minds do think alike.)

And lest you think that Wilson is a complete anti-robot alarmist, the last section of the book has a surprise element that the robot-loving Asimov would have approved of (and in fact wrote about in the short story "Robot Dreams").

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