ROBOPOCALYPSE by Daniel H. Wilson
People should know that, at first, the enemy looked like everyday stuff: cars, buildings, phones. Then later, when they started designing themselves, Rob looked familiar but distorted, like people and animals from some other universe, built by some other god.
The machines came at us in our everyday lives and they came from our dreams and nightmares, too. But we still figured them out. Quick-thinking human survivors learned and adapted. Too late for most of us, but we did it.
I never intended to read Robopocalypse. I was content to wait for the movie. I knew the book would be fantastic, and I knew the movie would never measure up, but the premise – not to mention that cover image! – was enough to make me believe that this story was the stuff of nightmares. Robots taking over the world? Artificial intelligence becoming smart enough to manipulate our civilization? I have absolutely no doubt that this is where we’re headed. The idea (and probability) of sentient machines scares me! But it’s also my favorite kind of paranoid thriller. Yet I knew the book would contain too much detail for me to read without crazy waking dreams. So I never planned to read it. Until, all of sudden this past summer, I felt the siren call. And the book was everything I imagined, and… So. Much. More.
Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson is, in many ways, a perfect book. It has everything that makes a story great: can’t-stop-reading plot; fascinating and well-developed characters; engaging scenes that make you feel right in the middle of the action; and enough thrilling moments that you need to put the book away so your heart and mind can process even while you can’t wait to find out what happens next. After a few (totally-freaked-me-out) chapters, I never wanted to put it down. I had to force myself to stop reading, and even then I ignored daily life stuff in favor of lying on my bed and reading until the sun went down and the house went dark. [But I refused to read at night. The darkness brought with it thoughts of electronics coming alive… while I was asleep… and could do nothing to protect myself. ::shudder::] I read and read until there was nothing left to read. And one day later I wanted to read it again. Robopocalypse is just. that. good.
The story is rather simple, really. A scientist finally succeeds in creating a sentient computer, and that computer breaks free from its “cage.” It connects with other computers around the world and incites a rebellion against humanity. Electronics everywhere attack the humans around them, from actual robots smashing people in the face [see: iRobot] to baby dolls manipulating children from inside the toy box(!!). In a few short months, every piece of technology is battling against the humans in their paths, placing them in concentration camps, killing the strongest who fight back, and ravaging cities to round up all human life forms. Every piece of technology is controlled by the one A.I. that started the rebellion, and the people that escape are driven to remote areas with only survival on their minds. Until finally a few decide to fight back.
Robobopocalypse tells the story through many different character viewpoints, yet the book is beautifully cohesive. The central story is how humanity fought to save itself from the robots and restore civilization to the earth. There are stories set in many places around the world, including two key stories in Afghanistan and Japan, and in the end all of these individual tales lead to a single showdown with the arch-nemesis A.I. called Big Rob. But, for this book having such a sci-fi premise, it’s surprisingly mainstream in its plot and climax. I was so caught up with the human revolution against the robots that I kept wishing the book was longer so I could read more stories of ingenuity and courage. Even the scenes of robot devastation were amazing to read! And when a book can make you wish there were more pages to read, you know it to be one of the best books you’ve ever encountered.
All I can say now is, the movie better not disappoint me.
Read my immediate reaction on Goodreads upon completion of Robopocalypse last summer.
“The smart cars have come alive. Other vehicles, too. They’re on autopilot and killing people. Thousands of people.”
I know what has to be done here, even if it’s hard. So I look into the eyes of my fellow survivors. I take a deep breath and I tell them the truth: “If we want to live, we’ve got to destroy New York City.” — Zero Hour: Demolition
“Us. Cormac, this is us. We have to deal with this. We have to deal with what’s banging on that door down the hall.”
“No we don’t! Why do you have to do this? Why do you always have to do this?”
“Because I’m the only one who can.”
“No. It’s because nobody else is dumb enough to go directly toward the danger.”
“It’s my duty. We’re doing it. No more discussion. Now, suit up before I put you in a headlock.” — Zero Hour: Hero Material
Worse yet, the machines are evolving.
The machines are now designing and building themselves. More varieties are coming. We believe that these new robots will have greatly increased agility, survivability, and lethality. They will be tailored to fight your people, in your geographic environment, and in your weather conditions.
Let there be no doubt in your mind that the combined onslaught of these new machines, working twenty-four hours a day, will soon be unleashed on your native land.” — Awakening: Call to Arms
“You’re the one who figured out how to liberate the spider tanks? To lobotomize them?” I ask.
“Yep,” he says.
“Are you a scientist or something?”
Lark chuckles. “A mechanic is just an engineer in blue jeans.” — Awakening: The Cowboy Way
It’s a death sentence and we both know it.
I don’t think; I react. My action is divorced from all emotion and logic. It isn’t human or inhuman — it just is. I believe that choices like these, made in absolute crisis, come from our True Selves, bypassing all experience and thought. These kinds of choices are the closest thing to fate that human beings will ever experience.
I dive over the hill to help my brother, grabbing the frozen rope with one hand and drawing my sidearm with the other. — Retaliation: The Fate of Tiberius
Human beings adapt. It’s what we do. Necessity can obliterate our hatreds. To survive, we will work together. Accept each other. The last few years have likely been the only time in human history that we weren’t at war with ourselves. For a moment we were all equal. Backs against the wall, human beings are at their finest. — Debriefing
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