Robot Overlords by Mark Stay

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Robot Overlords by Mark Stay

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 2/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: A group of streetwise teenagers try to outwit an invading robot army who have evil intentions toward the entire human race.
Buy? No Borrow? No
Pages: 384 Date: February 2015
Publisher: Orion Books
ISBN: 978-1473204867

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In the not too distant future, an evil alien robot army has enslaved humanity (as evil robot armies so often do), fitting each person with a tracking implant that will ensure that they remain confined to their homes for the next seven years. Gigantic sentries roam the streets in search of lawbreakers and mankind is under constant surveillance. Confinement is making everyone stir-crazy and the brave few who try to outsmart their captors are incinerated on sight. The biggest mystery, however, is why the robots are here and what they want with humankind. Will they really leave, as promised, once the seven years are up? After all, robots never lie.

Robot Overlords is a book based on an upcoming movie. It tells the story of teenager Sean and his three friends who inadvertently find a way to disable their tracking devices and escape captivity. Unfortunately, the robots soon become aware of their disappearance and the teens find themselves hotly pursued by deadly robots and human collaborators alike. The tables turn once more when a botched robot scan turns Sean into a human weapon that may hold the key to defeating the enemy.

It soon becomes apparent that the story has borrowed heavily from a variety of science fiction sources. Almost every plot element has a whiff of familiarity, creating a twisted amalgam of X-men, Star Trek, Real Steel, Terminator and pretty much every robot movie ever made, with a twist of Spielberg's Goonies added for the obligatory human interest element. The characters, likewise, are a collection of stock stereotypes: the hero, the joker, the girl, the cute kid, the pantomime villain. The characterisation is extremely shallow and this makes it difficult to care about what happens to them.

Another problem with the book is that it struggles to understand its target audience and the writing style is inconsistent. At first glance, it seems that the storyline would appeal to tween boys, but some of the language and sexual references would be too strong for this age group. The focus on the teenage heroes alienates adult readers, as the constant slang references to male anatomy get very annoying, very quickly, as does the incessant bickering between the kids. At several points in the story, I sided with the robots, hoping that a quick, well-targeted incendiary burst would destroy our young heroes and end my pain.

On the plus side, what the story lacks in originality, it certainly makes up for in terms of action and excitement, with plenty of fast-paced scenes, brimming with tension. The pace of the story is good and will keep readers on their toes from beginning to end. I also liked the fact the story was set in the UK, as opposed to a big American city. It added to the sense of claustrophobia as I imagined row upon row of terraced houses being patrolled by huge robot guards.

Dystopian fiction, when done well, can transport the reader to another world. Sadly, Robot Overlords is lazily written and borrows too many ideas from other sources to be a piece of credible, standalone fiction. I don't think I will be rushing to buy a ticket to see the movie any time soon.

Bookbag loved Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick, which is a bleak, chilling and deeply affecting robot thriller.

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Buy Robot Overlords by Mark Stay at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Robot Overlords by Mark Stay at


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