Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson
|Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson|
|Category: Science Fiction|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: This man-against-machine fight story has flashes of brilliance, but leaves them behind too readily for standard combat action scenes. Still, much better than the title suggests...|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: June 2011|
|Publisher: Simon and Schuster|
|External links: Author's website|
Rob is out to kill us all, and is going to take some beating. He already has many advantages, and can adapt easily where he finds a fault in his plans. He already has most of us dead, or in concentration camps. Rob is the generic nickname for all robot-kind, all controlled by one supreme Artificial Intelligence, who is set on eradication of our species.
The first part of this novel sets the stall out in almost linked short story fashion, as we see the robot/human relationship sour. A domestic servant turns the fetching of a frozen yoghurt into carnage. A young girl has reason to fear her techno-dolls. But while these are artistic, considered, multi-faceted pieces of jigsaw, the rest of the book is us watching the puzzle being put together, only to find it's just a common-or-garden landscape. Distinctive characters - a wise-cracking phone hacker in London suddenly out of his depth, a Japanese boffin in love with his cyber-companion - all have their parts to play in the war that follows, but once we've passed too many 'hey, I can kill off any character I like!' "shock" moments from our author, we're in generic battle action.
I don't think this was much helped by the style, either. Beyond the original shorts being told in individual styles - interview, testimony, meeting minutes etc, too much is being narrated by the chief grunt, describing one of the AI's archives. This means that too many characters - the girl, and an ex-controller of a robotic peace-keeper in Afghanistan alike, sound too similar.
The episodic structure had me gripped initially, not knowing who I was meeting and in what fashion. But when they'd been combined, it didn't help much. The creativity in robotic weapons borrowing their forms from nature (which our author played with most recently in his junior titles)as Rob evolves comes across patchily, when it could have been a major selling point. There is a lot that is still effective - some body horror on the final front, certainly, and this is definitely not the I, Robot retread I feared. But if Wilson could have sustained his initial set-up throughout, and left the generic completely behind, why - I would either have been lauding this from the rooftops, or suspecting some strong connection between him and the AI genius within these pages.
I must thank the kind Simon and Schuster people for my review copy.
More bad cyber-intelligence threatening us all can be seen in Lightborn by Tricia Sullivan.
You can read more book reviews or buy Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson at Amazon.com.
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