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1.0 out of 5 starsWow. Just wait for the movie (when it starts streaming on your next flight)
Reviewed in the United States on December 6, 2018
Where to begin. I had high hopes for this book and got it to pass some time over the holidays. The premise is an interesting and thought-provoking one; what might happen if and when artificial intelligence becomes self aware, particularly as we cede more and more control to automation and connected “smart” devices? The story however, falls apart quickly. The author has done little to delve beyond the basic premise of the story (a robot apocalypse) and the writing is some of the worst you will ever read. There is no character development. The story is told through a series of disjointed vignettes that are bookended by commentary that is cheesy, repetitive, and after a while, cringe-inducing. Many chapters are written like a movie script, and literally told as descriptions from a camera lens. In the end, you do not care about the characters because you do not really know who they are, an opportunity to explore the ethics of developing advanced AI is completely missed, and you end the book wishing you had never begun it in the first place. Just rewatch Terminator; your time will have been better spent.
5.0 out of 5 starsCould You Survive the Robot Apocalypse?
Reviewed in the United States on April 12, 2018
I thoroughly loved this sci-fi adventure about living through the end of the world. The premise of the novel is that an advanced AI has become sentient and decides it doesn't like being humankind's pet. The robot uprising is devastating. Wilson describes the near-future tech that devastates mankind after it is no longer in our control with a certain gleeful abandon: the careening autonomous car was particularly memorable.
But the novel is not about the destruction. Rather, it really is a hopeful novel. Multiple survivors from all over the globe contribute to the narrative. Some of the tales are harrowing (such as surviving in New York), but at least one made me laugh (the leader of the Japanese enclave's enduring relationship). These survivors find ways to survive and work together. They adapt to the new "Rob" controlled world. They form friendships and learn to see past the things that formerly divided us from one another. Ultimately the novel asks readers to consider the what is to be alive.
For this reader, who is also from Wilson's home state of Oklahoma, I particularly enjoyed seeing Oklahoma geography and Native politics played out in a sci-fi setting. Fashioning Osage County as the last best hope for mankind was a stroke of vivid imagination!
This is a superbly engaging oral history of a singularity event gone awry that leaves Humanity facing an extinction-level event.
I loved how the seemingly disparate vignettes slowly converged on one another and the larger narrative became more apparent, although I would have appreciated even more insights into the workings, continued development, and rationale of Archos (and the extent to which it did, or even could, alter or enhance itself). Some of the AI's more grisly experimentation into cybernetic enhancement and its research platforms were of particular interest, but any and all additional insights would have been welcome.
I also appreciated how many of the noteworthy survivors were themselves deeply flawed and complicated people, rather than the one-dimensional hero types that would negate a lot of the dramatic tension and intrinsic ambiguity about what is "right" in a story like this. It's not that I am opposed to the idea of noble self-sacrifice or disbelieve that it would occur, but the stakes and pervasive existential dread of this story make it feel much more realistic that many folks would look to their own needs first and foremost, even at the expense of Team Humanity.
I haven't enjoyed a fictional documentary-type story this much since World War Z and am eager to dive into the sequel.
Reviewed in the United States on February 21, 2016
This is one of my favorite books. Imagine one day your driving in your self driving car and it runs head on to another car as if they meant to kill you. Or you see cars running over people and the street sweepers picking up the dead bodies and loading them for disposal at the local dump. What would you do? Will make you see Artificial Intelligence's possible dark side. Finished this book on a sunny day when I could have gone outside, but the book kept me engaged. Definitely one to read.
2.0 out of 5 stars2 stars for an interesting premise
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 26, 2018
This is a very poorly written book. It is very much a copy of World War Z but inferior in plotting and writing. Without exception the characters are one dimensional and cliched, with embarrassingly cheesy dialogue and action scenes that remind one of children's cartoons from the 80's like the Power Rangers. The author has copied the chapter structure from WWZ, but where it worked in that book because the chapters were interviews with surviviors, here the information is supposed to be cobbled together from CCTV, archives etc. Unfortunately it just does not work as it is never remotely believable that the characters inner thoughts and motivations could be gleaned from watching old tapes.
A huge irritation is the poor research and planning. There is a half hearted attempt to imagine an alternate reality where robots are commonplace, but much of the practical detail which would help ground the story in reality is missing. Cars are roaming the streets of cities for months and years after anyone refuelled them; robots and humans never resort to powerful weapons like rockets, missles (with 1 exception which makes their omission elsewhere even more obvious) bombs or similar; random bits of robots are removed and used as fully functioning weapons with no explanation of how they are powered or controlled. The greatest irritation however was a character called Lurker. This was supposed to be an English teenager. In the space of a few paragraphs he dodges trash carts, knocks over a fire hydrant and uses his catchphrase referring to the funny pages in the newspapers. All are specifically American phrases, and the UK does not have fire hydrants. I appreciate the author is American but I am English, and yet still know that in the US cars have hoods and trunks, suspenders hold up men's trousers and You can refer to a fanny pack without embarrassment or sniggering.
All in all a poor book with little to recommend it. The premise however is a good one, and if Spielberg does make it into a film (sorry, movie) I would be interested in seeing it.
3.0 out of 5 stars... a short period of time so it must be good, right
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 7, 2014
I can't really criticise this book too much as I did read it all the way through in a short period of time so it must be good, right? Well I hate to be overly critical but there are just a few niggling things which mean I haven't given it four or five stars. Firstly, I knew it was going to be a trashy read and I love a good trashy read. However, this book could have been written a little better and pitched itself just a bit higher in terms of vocabulary etc. It is quite simple. Another criticism is that it's very similar to World Wide Z but unfortunately this similarity only serves to highlight just how much more superior WWZ is. I bought this as an eBook at £1.99. Book two is £6.50 and I don't think it's worth it. I suppose that says a lot really. This said, I enjoyed the story and it should make a great movie. It wasn't bad, just not amazing.
4.0 out of 5 starsA fascinating sci-fi read that's also an enjoyable thriller
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 9, 2013
I wanted this purely because I had heard Spielberg is making a movie of it. Although I usually don't care much about whether the movie differs from the book, this time the plot synopsis intruigued me enough to hook me in. I'm glad it did. Robopocalypse is a rewarding read in more ways than one. Firstly, it's a dramatic and lean thriller. I never felt like I was reading filler or a badly paced chapter. Secondly, it's inventive and makes you think - the gift of all great sci-fi. And thirdly, simply structurally, it's brilliantly clever. The novel doesn't follow a traditional structure of following a cenral character. Rather it initially introduces key characters, each in a self-contained mini-tale of their own, chapter by chapter, and then begins to link them, believably and intricately weaving the story strands together and reintroducing them as they become more prominent in the tale. It's also a lot of fun. As Artificial Intelligence 'Archos' becomes self aware, it turns on its creator, but although such an idea is far from original, the way the tale evolves and grows IS handled with originality. Wilson cleverly uses technology that already surrounds us to introduce a sense of unsuspecting unease as everyday gadgets begin to suffer apparently random and unconnected blips, until the pace of the disaster accelerates rapidly and becomes something so dangerous that the survivors have to un-learn their modern ways of life and embrace skillsets they never thought they'd have to use. One scene of a simple family journey is so tense and daringly shocking that it's a masterpiece, and should form a prominent part of any competent screenplay. A brilliant read that any fan of Michael Crichton's style of technothrillers will likely find easy to enjoy and should readily embrace before the movie arrives.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 17, 2012
The first few chapters of this novel, (Apart from the character story set in Japan) were pretty hard going. It read a lot like airport trash, sub Airport Trash...I'm a big Sci-Fi fan but found it hard to get into the story; reminding me of those 70's disaster movies....
But about a third into the book, it's as if the author wakes up and starts telling a decent story that both Sci Fi fans would like, and general readers.
The novel follows a set of characters all around the globe as the Robots take over, that's the book in a nutshell. The trouble is some of those characters aren't really worth knowing, and early in the book, the writer introduces very interesting ones that don't seem to re-appear.
A decent Editor could have ironed all these out, but hey, the author hit big with the rights getting snapped up by Dreamworks.
The general reader will get a Da Vinci -esque page turner, with enough science in there to satisfy Sci Fi fans who aren't too interested in the `kick ass' battalions of the human army versus the Droids......
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 12, 2013
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this and ploughed through it in a couple of sittings but I can't help comparing it - unfavourably - with Max Hastings' World War Z.
Describing a Terminator style, "computers take over the world" story, it paints a picture of a world dependent on a technology that turns against it with horrific results. Written as a journal, it describes the lead up and downfall of society and the eventual triumph of humans over machines.
There are some nice ideas and its quite thought provoking at times but for a apocalyptic, end-of-the-world type of novel it lacks depth and emotion - characters are a bit stereotypical and you can practically see where it has been written with a big screen adaptation in mind. It didn't stay with me in the same way as WWZ did - for all the thematic similarities, Hasting's book felt much more human and intimate.
That's not to say its not worth a read - just don't go expecting a masterpiece.