Andre Farant's Reviews > Robopocalypse

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
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Dec 23, 11


Robopocalypse is very much Terminator meets World War Z. Like the Terminator series, it outlines a robot uprising and the battle to defeat the mechanized hoards. From Max Brooks’ World War Z, it borrows what had been a rather unique narrative structure, telling a wide-ranging story through multiple points of view and a variety of voices. The notable difference between Robopocalypse and these earlier works is in its use of character.

Wilson uses a narrative device that is similar to that used by Brooks, but one that allows for the more natural reappearance of recurring characters. Rather than jumping from one new character and POV to another throughout the novel, Wilson hops back and forth between a limited number of primary figurants, developing them not through single vignettes, but through their own novel-spanning storylines. It feels less like a series of connected short stories that, when placed end to end, tell a single story, and more like a single story with numerous sub-plots, all building upon the same foundation.

This foundation is provided by Cormac “Bright Boy” Wallace of the Grey Horse Army. Wallace narrates a prologue and epilogue which bookend Robopocalypse, but he also introduces and lends the occasional closing commentary to every chapter-long episode featuring and often narrated by other characters. Through Wallace, we come to know these characters and the role they played in the New War. As mentioned, the characters are well developed and distinct and even Wallace himself features in his own episodes so that we see how he has evolved over the course of the War.

Unlike Terminator, Robopocalypse does not rely on the initial construction of and inevitable rebellion by military-grade robots. The machines in Robopocalypse were not designed to kill—though, like most power tools, these machines are well-equipped to do so. Wilson’s description not only of the robots themselves but the uses for which humans have built them are both inventive and believable. This is no surprise given that Wilson studied robotics at Carnegie Mellon; the man clearly knows his stuff. He knows how these machines work, and knows exactly how we might put them to use (or are currently putting them to use). So he also knows how things might go wrong.

Robopocalypse is a high-tension, well-crafted and genuinely original take on a topic which, like zombies, had grown a little stale over the years. Wilson manages to breathe new life into this rusted frame, setting himself and his work apart from those who’ve come before him.
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