Lisa Eskra's Reviews > Robopocalypse

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
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's review
Mar 30, 2011

it was ok

I think most readers are going to either love this novel or be extremely disappointed with it. Daniel Wilson is a mimic of Max Brooks, only with robots instead of zombies. The storytelling style of Robopocalypse is identical to World War Z. If you didn't like it there, you won't like it here.

While the author's background in robotics is impressive, his fiction writing leaves something to be desired. There are some really compelling scenes -- tense, raw. Genuinely thrilling. Very visual, I can actually see how it would translate into a big-budget popcorn flick. But for the most part, in non-action scenes the prose is uninspiring at best and just plain boring overall.

I feel like the beginning diffuses most of the tension in the story. The reader is told right off that humanity wins. Any discerning reader would metagame that to be the ending, but I'd rather be kept guessing throughout the novel. Most people have seen Terminator and Maximum Overdrive, nothing original on that front, and this one mixes in some Independence Day too.

Each chapter is a separate vignette recorded during some portion of the robot war. Each is in a different style and point of view that feels more like a script than a novel. Sometimes people recount what happened after the fact. Sometimes all the reader gets is a fast-paced action scene. Early on as a result of this, world building is incorporated into characters' dialogue (people randomly explaining things they wouldn't be doing in conversation), making the dialogue itself weak and artificial.

Each chapter has a pattern. A clever quote from a character in the chapter. A brief explanation paragraph setting the scene. Then there's the text itself, followed by a brief concluding paragraph to explain where the story is heading. It distinctly struck me as a movie script hastily written into a novel, which is fine if you're writing a script or a tie-in novel adaptation. But this isn't.

I personally dislike this style of storytelling. I don't think it was the best way to tell this story. The character development is poor. Wilson bounces back and forth between too many different characters so fast the reader is never quite able to connect to any of them. It builds no empathy for any of the characters, and the robots (Archos in particular) had no convincing motive for being evil. He's online for 15 minutes and the first thing he wants to do is destroy humanity. Really?

Part One (almost the first hundred pages) is very boring. It's only when the reader gets to Part Two that the pace really picks up, and it quickly turns into a sprint to the climax. After the intense build-up, the final confrontation with Archos is really weak.

Conclusion: Don't be fooled by the catchy title, beautiful cover, or the author's robotic credentials. The book is nothing more than some flashy action scenes fleshed into a weak novel with disposable heroes. If you enjoyed the style of storytelling in WWZ, you may like this novel. If not, might want to pass and wait for the movie.
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Reading Progress

March 30, 2011 – Shelved
April 1, 2011 – Started Reading
April 1, 2011 –
page 57
April 1, 2011 –
page 167
April 5, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Ben (new) - rated it 1 star

Ben Agree on almost all points, but WWZ was well done and worked in the oral history style. This book is weak, and just plain bad in places. So I disagree that if you liked WWZ then you'll like this.

Lisa Eskra Ben wrote: "I disagree that if you liked WWZ then you'll like this."

I haven't read any more than a sample of WWZ so you're right -- I shouldn't use that as a basis of comparison as to whether someone will or won't like this book. The style is similar.

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