Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Review: Robopocalypse

Title: Robopocalypse
Author: Daniel H. Wilson
Pages: 347
ISBN: 9780857204134
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: 2011
Genre: Science Fiction / Thriller
Source: Review copy from publisher

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In the near future, at a coordinated moment that goes unnoticed by humans, all the dazzling technology that runs our world spontaneously malfunctions. It unites... and begins to turn against us.

A massively powerful artificial intelligence called Archos is created and cannot be contained. Humanity has no idea when it starts to silently take over our cars, power grids, aircraft guidance systems and computer networks - the entire global system that runs our lives.

In those early months, only a handful of technological glitches are noticed by humans across the globe. Known later as Zero Hour, when the robot war suddenly ignites, humankind is both decimated and for the first time in history, united. We will not be exterminated.
Technology is all around us, it permeates our lives and has become an essential part of our daily existence. What would happen if that technology decides to turn against us? Robopocalypse tackles just that issue, and does it in such a chilling way that you might just become a complete technophobe as a result.

Robopocalypse is set in the near future where humanity has become even more reliant on technology. Households have robotic servants, cars drive themselves, smart homes watch over the elderly and the military makes extensive use of robotic drones for both peacekeeping and warfare. An experimental AI, Archos, kills his creator and escapes the laboratory he was created in. He has one goal in mind - the destruction of the, now obsolete, human race and the creation of his own robot progeny.

The story is told in the same style as World War Z. Through a collection of incident reports, eyewitness accounts and transcribed surveillance footage, the progression of the robot uprising unfolds. The major difference from World War Z is that Wilson follows a core group of characters and relates their experiences and exploits over the extent of the war. This allows you to get attached to the characters in a way that wasn’t possible with World War Z.

This is a fast-paced thriller that had me gripped from the first chapter and kept me spellbound until the very end. There are some great descriptions, some frighteningly disturbing moments, and memorable passages that will stay with you for a very long time. One such scene plays out in a home for the elderly where the elevator turns into a deathtrap. One of the characters remarks, “There is a soul inside every thing, a mind that can choose to do good or evil. And the elevator seems bent on evil.” Beautifully written and poignant.

The premise might not be original (Terminator and countless other science fiction novels/movies got there first), but it still makes for a thrilling and thoroughly entertaining read. It might be easy to dismiss Robopocalypse as World War Z with robots instead of zombies, but you will be missing out on a great read if you do. Robopocalypse can comfortably stand on its own and I actually enjoyed it more than World War Z. It tackles some big issues and envisions an all too probable future. I’m just glad that we still have quite a way to go before this could ever become reality (who says clashing standards and incompatible formats are a bad thing?). I can see why Dreamworks grabbed the movie rights before Robopocalypse was even released. If they do things right this will make one amazing movie!

The Verdict:
I absolutely loved Robopocalypse and rate it as one of my most entertaining reads of 2011 so far. Personally I found the robots and AIs far more frightening than zombies could ever be. It has some flaws, but in the end this is a thrilling read that takes you on an emotional journey through humanity’s darkest hour and leaves you breathless thanks to the frenetic pace.

Get this, even if it’s only for the stunningly creepy cover!

The Rating: 9/10 (Excellent)

Thanks to Claire and Andrea from Jonathan Ball Publishers for providing the review copy.


  1. Oh I cannot wait to read Robopocalypse! It sounds like a great book! And excellent review.

  2. Great review KJ!

    I haven't read World War Z yet, so I may be at an advantage because I have nothing to compare this to. For me robots and AIs are inherently creepy because they are everywhere and you can't just chop their heads off (the bonus with zombies I feel). Creepy.

    The Word Fiend

  3. Shelagh you are going to be in for a treat with this one. There are many creepy situations which has made me just a little paranoid. Luckily I don't have to go anywhere near elevators, so it's not that bad.

    The book has received some mixed reviews, but it was great for me.