If robots ever really rise up and try to exterminate humanity, I hope they follow the example of their fellows from Robopocalypse. Because these guys aren’t very good at it.
Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse follows the template of Max Brooks’ World War Z, providing an oral history of key players before, during, and after a cataclysmic clash between humans and an enemy (in this case, our own robotic creations) bent on their extinction.
Wilson knows his subject matter — he holds a PhD in robotics — and he creates mostly realistic mechanical enemies. His previous “nonfiction” book on the subject, the tongue-in-cheek How to Survive a Robot Uprising, was a sly deconstruction of how the popular trope of a machine rebellion has been erroneously depicted in popular culture. In a nutshell, that book’s advice is: jump in the water or find uneven terrain and hope they don’t drop bombs on you.
Some of that wit and intelligence makes its way into Robopocalypse, but not nearly enough. [Review contains minor plot spoilers]
In this novel, the (near) end of the world is brought about by an artificial intelligence called Archos, which becomes sentient and immediately escapes from the government lab where it was created. One year later, every connected device on the planet turns on its human users. Unfortunately for humankind, in this near future, that includes human-sized domestic robots, auto-driving cars, and worst of all, tanks, walking mines, and other military hardware.
Robopocalypse chronicles the eclectic survivors of the initial attack as they fight back in increasingly creative ways against increasingly terrifying and alien generations of robots until they ultimately destroy Archos (or do they?) and end the war.
The fantastic initial chapter makes a promise that the book ultimately cannot keep. After Archos has been terminated, a soldier ruminates on the horrors of the three-year war He remembers how it began subtly, with familiar objects like phones and cars malfunctioning, and how eventually they faced gruesome robots designed solely for killing and crippling human beings. He is unsure if he wants to share the nightmares that humanity faced and the horrors they perpetrated.