092. Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
Publication: Doubleday (June 7, 2011), Hardcover, 347pp / ISBN 0385533853
Read: May 24-25, 2012
Source: BEA 2011
Summary from Amazon:
They are in your house. They are in your car. They are in the skies…Now they’re coming for you.
In the near future, at a moment no one will notice, all the dazzling technology that runs our world will unite and turn against us. Taking on the persona of a shy human boy, a childlike but massively powerful artificial intelligence known as Archos comes online and assumes control over the global network of machines that regulate everything from transportation to utilities, defense and communication. In the months leading up to this, sporadic glitches are noticed by a handful of unconnected humans – a single mother disconcerted by her daughter’s menacing “smart” toys, a lonely Japanese bachelor who is victimized by his domestic robot companion, an isolated U.S. soldier who witnesses a ‘pacification unit’ go haywire – but most are unaware of the growing rebellion until it is too late.
When the Robot War ignites — at a moment known later as Zero Hour — humankind will be both decimated and, possibly, for the first time in history, united. Robopocalypse is a brilliantly conceived action-filled epic, a terrifying story with heart-stopping implications for the real technology all around us…and an entertaining and engaging thriller unlike anything else written in years.
Robopocalypse was one of the heavily-promoted books from BEA last year, and while I liked the idea/the cover/got a signed copy I still had it in the back of my mind that it was kind of a joke book. Like, y’know: Robot apocalypse? Ha-ha-aha, right?
Wrong. Maybe the idea is a bit goofy, but there is NOTHING goofy about this book. It’s TERRIFYING.
Maybe I’m a bit biased because one of my biggest fears1 is electronics/robots/etc. gaining sentience and then setting out to destroy all of humanity, so reading a book where they do exactly that already puts me in an “oh shit” mindset. But! I do think it’s more than just my fear of a murderous AI: Robopocalypse is genuinely horrifying, not just because of what the robots do once they start the war with humans, but because HUMANS are the ones who did it to themselves.
Do we really NEED things that can think better/faster/longer than we can? Maybe, maybe not. What about things that can’t really die, that can evolve faster than us, that can see in the dark and underwater and through walls? Things that can communicate between themselves faster and better, things that don’t need to sleep and don’t need to eat and things that never get tired? Do we need those sorts of things? Probably not– especially if they’re going to turn around and obliterate a good 2/3rds of our race because we pissed them off.2
So Robopocalypse is a kind of “what if” book– what if all that happened, and the world ended, and we were the ones who made it happen? How would we fix it? How would we survive? How would we fight back against our own creations?
And what would the creations do in return?
The really neat thing about Robopocalypse is that the robots aren’t EVIL.3 They want to survive just as much as we do, and they want to do it without becoming inferior to humans. So this is how they’re doing it.
You really need to read the book for yourself to find out what I mean, and if you like sci-fi that deals with “what is life” questions (along with lots of action/thriller stuff) you’d enjoy Robopocalypse. It’s written almost like a collection of short stories set in the same universe, so reading it goes pretty quick. And I hope that once you’re done you’ll say the same thing I did: “Wow. That was cool.”
I really liked it!
The author actually has a PhD in robotics, so the robot science stuff reads very realistically. But! It doesn’t get TOO technical– I don’t think you’d be overly confused reading it even if you know absolutely nothing about robots.
Steven Spielberg is directing the movie! Should be fun.
One other thing: there’s a good spread of characters from different countries/nationalities/etc. but there was NOTHING about China except a mention in one chapter about how millions of people died there. I thought that was kind of strange, since it’s set in the future and China is already pretty damned important. Japan’s in there with an important character; surely China should have had at least one, too? Maybe I’m just too picky.