Friday, June 10, 2011

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

At some point in the indeterminate future we, that is to say, mankind, will have domestic robots with humanoid forms. Our toys will have computers in them and our cars will be required to have smart chips that can communicate with each other to avoid accidents. We will, as we always do, want more, and eventually we'll achieve it: a true artificial intelligence, smarter than we are and born pissed off.

This artificial intelligence, called Archos, will kill his, I mean its, creator, and release a virus that will methodically infect all computers. Everywhere. It will begin slowly. A talking doll will threaten its owner. Cars will begin to purposefully run down pedestrians. A domestic robot (with the ironic brand name Big Happy) out on an errand will go berserk and kill a fast food worker. But when Zero Hour comes, it will happen all over the world, all at once, and it won't be pretty.

Robopocalypse is about the war between machine and man, known by those who live through it as the New War, and its aftermath. The story unfolds in the form of an oral history, cobbled together by Cormac Wallace, a leader of the human resistance. The narrative takes the reader from the time before the war ("Isolated Incidents") all the way through to the bitter end. The stories told are those of the heroes in the battle, mostly human, some robot, and a few who are human/robot hybrids. (Oh, yeah--Archos herds surviving humans into work camps and modifies some of them physically to suit its nefarious needs.)

Robopocalypse is not a novel of big ideas. No, it's a novel with one really, really scary idea: what if the machines we took for granted--many of which are bigger, heavier, and stronger than we are--turned against us en masse? What if those machines were driven by an intelligence more intelligent than we are? How could we possibly fight it? As with all post-apocalyptic novels, the best, richest parts detail how humanity deals with the situation, how people band together and figure out how to fight and to survive. Some of the stories are truly touching, but never fear, the action is absolutely edge-of-your-seat gripping. 

As I was reading Rocopocalypse--not just when I was actively reading it, but during the day at work, in the car, even watching the news--my mind kept going back to it. At work I couldn't wait until I could get to back to it. I read later into the night than I should have. And I finished far more quickly than I wanted to.

That's compelling reading.

1 comment:

Lisa Mandina said...

I enjoyed this book as well. Also kept thinking about all the things that relate to technology that we don't even think about.