Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review of "Robopocalypse", a novel by Daniel H. Wilson

I just finished reading "Robopocalypse" by Daniel H. Wilson. I was originally sucked into buying the book by the title (which seemed cleverer then than it does now) and the cover (what appears to be a photograph of a shiny white robot face -- almost a glazed ceramic look).

I don't believe I have ever read anything by Wilson, but I found his writing to be compelling and exciting, and the concepts he came up with the war of the robots on humanity pretty intriguing. It's safe to say that I enjoyed reading this book.

There's only one problem with it, and it's a big one -- he gives away the ending on the first page. Not in explicit detail, but it is clear and certain that one side has won the war. 
It's a credit to his writing skills that even with that unfortunate reveal, I wanted to continue to read the remaining 346 pages. But… I can't shake the feeling that this could have been a spectacular tale of suspense if the author had not telegraphed the denouement on the first page.

And the obvious -- TOO obvious, in my opinion -- set up for a sequel is unfortunate. It's pretty blatant, and really unnecessary.

One other thing that bugged me was the structure of the novel, where each chapter is presented as a reconstruction of events based on date taken from various sources -- security cameras, robot memory cores, and so forth. It is a clever conceit, at first… but about a third of the way into the book I started to realize that -- given the way the author actually writes each chapter -- it's no better than a standard "omniscient" point of view. (There's probably another term for that in the world of literature.)

I can recommend this book -- just don't start with the first chapter, which is titled "Briefing". Instead, jump ahead to page 13 and begin with "Part One: Isolated Incidents". 

It might work better that way. But maybe not. -- PL

1 comment:

Mark H said...

You have piqued my curiosity. I'm wondering, does this story feel fresh when you read it? I ask because the storyline with machines, AI, robots, ect, has been used many times in books and movies.