Thursday, December 29, 2011

My review of Daniel H. Wilson's ROBOPOCALYPSE

Daniel H. Wilson
This is what a top-notch roboticist looks like.

ROBOPOCALYPSE has been on my to-read list for some time. When I stumbled across it at the library, I grabbed it. 

I'm glad I did. 

For starters, it's got one of the best covers I've seen lately. Very professional and high quality. 

Without giving anything away, the book is what you expect: the story of a robot uprising against humanity. In this it delivers. The story unfolds as a series of vignettes, almost like short stories, which are all connected. The chapters introduce the various characters and then weave through the story going back and forth and here and there, catching us up with what each character has been doing, how they've been struggling in the New War, as it is called. 

The writing is smooth and not overdone, so no need for a dictionary. The story reigns supreme and is not diminished by any fancy attempts at wordplay. There are a few downright awesome one-liners, too. But I'll leave those for you to discover for yourself. 

The robots are highly imagined, a clear bi-product of the author having earned his doctorate in robotics from Carnegie Melon University. Not bad. The various robots are positively diabolical. 

The book is also being made into a movie by Dreamworks & Fox, with Spielberg directing.

It's an epic story on an epic scale, perfect for film adaptation by the heavy hitters of Hollywood. Drew Goddard is adapting it, writing the screenplay. He wrote CLOVERFIELD

which I liked a lot, so hopefully the film will be a good combination of realism and intensity minus any schmaltzy rated-PG Spielbergness. Here's a link to read more about the film, and a link to the author's website: 

(Release date for the film is July 3, 2013.)

Other works by Dan H. Wilson include:

Follow Dan H. Wilson on Twitter:!/danielwilsonpdx

Or shoot an email to him:

Overall, I recommend ROBOPOCALYPSE. 

Now, for the more in-depth writerly analysis. 

*Caution: potential quasi-spoilers ahead.*

I had one primary gripe with this book. It was the same kind of gripe I had with THE HOST by Stephanie Meyer. (FYI, I really enjoyed the TWILIGHT saga, so I'm not out to skewer Stephanie Meyer.) The problem is one of authorial choice: the story began too late. In other words, it should've begun sooner. 

In THE HOST, the story begins with the main character Melanie already out of the way, so to speak. This meant I had no time to get to know her, yet I was supposed to care about her and her friends and family. I would have preferred a chapter or two showing Melanie in her day-to-day, so we could get to know her, come to care about her, and then be that much more concerned when things go south for her. 

In ROBOPOCALYPSE, the story begins more or less at the end and is told retrospectively through the eyes of Cormac, a young man who becomes the leader of the resistance. But the climax, or what SHOULD have been the climax, is revealed in the beginning of the story, as told by Cormac, utilizing this frame technique as a means by which Cormac can tell the overall story and provide commentary. But knowing the conclusion deflated the story. It took a fair amount of tension out of it. If I had not known, from the beginning, how the New War ends, I would have been more deeply engaged by the story. Wilson does a fine job of keeping the outcome in doubt; he does a fine job of making the robots into formidable adversaries, and of placing the characters in genuine peril. But each time I found myself wanting to read faster, I kept recalling the beginning of the book and thinking, "Oh, yeah, that's how it ends." 

As I said, I liked the book and recommend it. But I would have liked it more if the conclusion had been left for the end. The structure/frame would have to have been a bit different, but I think it could've been done. While I was reading I kept wondering how these various retrospective vignettes will be handled in the film adaptation. Because there really is an ensemble cast, all of whom are important and integral to the story and to the waging of the war against the machines. 

In conclusion, it's an excellent book, one I found myself eager to read each day.

Bravo, Dan!

1 comment:

  1. Both myself and my fiance have read this book and we both felt that it had potential but really feel short . . . and now to find out it's being made into a movie? All I can say is I hope Spielberg can fill in the gaps that were left in the story. It just felt like the author picked a spot and began the story without cluing the reader into any backstory that would have answered a lot of unanswered questions and would not have left us feeling as if there were things/information/plot missing.