Review | Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson (Doubleday)

Title: Robopocalypse
Author: Daniel H Wilson
Publisher: Doubleday
Format: Hardback
Release Date: June 2011

Reviewed by: Daniel Burton

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They are in your house. They are in your car. They are in the skies…Now they’re coming for you.

In the near future, at a moment no one will notice, all the dazzling technology that runs our world will unite and turn against us. Taking on the persona of a shy human boy, a childlike but massively powerful artificial intelligence known as Archos comes online and assumes control over the global network of machines that regulate everything from transportation to utilities, defense and communication. In the months leading up to this, sporadic glitches are noticed by a handful of unconnected humans – a single mother disconcerted by her daughter’s menacing “smart” toys, a lonely Japanese bachelor who is victimized by his domestic robot companion, an isolated U.S. soldier who witnesses a ‘pacification unit’ go haywire – but most are unaware of the growing rebellion until it is too late.

When the Robot War ignites -- at a moment known later as Zero Hour -- humankind will be both decimated and, possibly, for the first time in history, united. Robopocalypse is a brilliantly conceived action-filled epic, a terrifying story with heart-stopping implications for the real technology all around us…and an entertaining and engaging thriller unlike anything else written in years.
Daniel Wilson has imagined a world, our world, just a few years further down the road. Technology is not too far removed from the present day. For all intents and purposes, it is our world. It feels like our world. And one day, the machines of our world—the cars, computers, missiles, tanks, and toys—wake up.

It’s a little bit scary.

No, strike that. It’s very scary. While in many ways reminiscent of a zombie outbreak – albeit instantaneously worldwide and with zombies that look like cars, tanks, robots, and elevators—Robopocalypse is, well, not a zombie book. Rather than the messy destruction of the brain seeking undead, the uprising I surprisingly clean, considering the destruction involved. The robotic slaves of humanity clean up after themselves, leaving a tidy wake as they hunt, kill, and destroy mankind. Scenes of a silent and orderly New York City, where the silence is only broken by roving toy helicopters seeking the living, are spooky and eerie. The sudden and inexplicable head-on collision of cars destroying their drivers, or diving headlong into lakes with living occupants is horrifying as any attack of the undead. Perhaps even more so because of the sheer alien feel to the uprising by our own machines.

It’s not a new premise. Both the Terminator series of movies and I, Robot (both book and the movie) are both examples of artificial intelligence run amok. In Robopocalypse, we again see machines take on awareness, but with a descriptiveness and reality set much closer to our own.

With a degree in computer science and another in robotics, Wilson has written several books on robot uprisings and including robots. In Robopocalypse, he creates a story told in an almost documentary style, not unlike the format of World War Z. While using this gimmick might seem to hurt the flow of story or disconnect the reader from any one character, Wilson chooses to focus on just a few individuals and does a wonderful job of quickly building them up without the need for extended page time.

The documentary style also prevents the story from becoming bogged down with transitions and lulls. Instead, the plot jumps to the center of the action, horrific and human, as protagonists survive, die, and fight against their own cars, tools, toys, and machines.

It is vivid, fast paced, and each chapter finishes on a cliff hanger that makes Robopocalypse a page-flipping whirlwind. I picked it up on Friday night and finished it before I returned to my day job on Monday morning. When I did, I was just a little more wary of technology, but regretful that the story had ended.

It’s a fun, fast, and exciting read, if, at moments, horrifying, and I count it as one of my top five reads this year. However, you don’t need to take my word for it. Steven Spielberg agrees, and the word is that he’s making Robopocalypse into a movie for release in 2013. Count me in for opening night tickets.

About Daniel Burton
Dan Burton lives in Salt Lake City, Utah where he practices law during the day and everything else during the night. You can follow him on his blog where muses on politics, the law, current events, books, and ideas. You can contact him at, and yes, he’d be glad to read your ARC (with some caveats).

FantasyLass  – (9 September 2011 at 13:34)  

This looks so, so good. I'm hooked just by the cover, never mind the terrifyingly fabulous plotline :)

KJ Mulder  – (9 September 2011 at 17:37)  

I also loved this. It was far more frightening than World War Z ever was. Definitely one of my top reads of 2011 as well.

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