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ROBOPOCALYPSE by Daniel H. Wilson: Book 25 of 2011 [Dear Thursday]

If you haven’t heard of ROBOPOCALYPSE by now, then I you’re not a true nerd. This novel has earned mentions from just about every nerd blog, because of it’s high-concept premise (a robot uprising) — as told by a former robotics grad student from my own grad alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University. Funnily enough, the first screenplay I ever got optioned, a high school comedy about a ragtag team of St. Louis high schoolers who build a hip-hop robot, was heavily consulted on by a grad student from the CMU Robotics program, so this book had me at the writer bio.

What’s it About: The 13th version of a truly intelligent robot decides to take Earth back from the humans, and you know, save itself from getting scrapped once again. Humans fight back. We’re told within the first five pages that we win. This is the story of how we managed to do so.

What Makes It Different: The way humans fight back in this book is way more logical and realistic than, say, a TERMINATOR. In fact, this book is going to make it hard for me to watch a TERMINATOR 5 movie.

What I Loved: Having consulted with a CMU robotics student back in 2002, it was super-interesting to see a bunch of the stuff he talked about happening — robot cars that sense each other, surgery robots,¬†unwieldy¬†domestic robots — in a book set about three decades from now. Also, this was a super-easy read, well-paced and exciting. Within 50 pages, I was like, “Holy cow, this would make a great movie. I wonder if any one has bought the rights.” Looked it up on imdb — Steven Spielberg optioned it before it even sold to a publishing house. Nice! I seriously can’t wait for the movie.

What I Didn’t Like: This novel will probably make a better movie than a book, as it reads more like a treatment than a well-crafted story. And there are a couple of deux ex machinas, that had me saying, “Seriously?” out loud. The storytelling and craft is Stephenie Meyers-level not great, but much like I liked TWILIGHT, that didn’t keep me from enjoying this book. Also, unlike most movies, this book had a very diverse cast, with folks of several different races representing for the human resistance in power roles.

Writing Lessons Learned

If you’re going to do different point of view characters, change up their voices. This book would have been near perfect if every single POV character didn’t sound like the narrator. It reminded me that voice is one of the strongest tools in a writer’s arsenal.

If there’s a movie you want to see, write it. One can almost tell how frustrated the author had become watching movies like TERMINATOR. “No, that’s not how a human resistance would operate!” he might have said. Good for Wilson for writing the movie he wanted to see … as a book.

Make the villain a hero. I’m awfully fond of this storytelling device, and it’s an oldie-but-a-goodie for a reason. Wilson does some terrific stuff with a hacker in this novel, and it reminded how fun it is for readers to see a no-gooder become a do-gooder.

To Whom Would I Recommend this Book: TERMINATOR and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA Fans Who Don’t Have High-Falutin’ Literary Taste and Anyone Who Won’t Mind Throwing Sideways Shade at All Electronics for the Next 50 Years Or So After Reading This.

Click on the book cover to buy at Amazon!