Following the example of Max Brook’s "World War Z," Daniel H. Wilson’s "Robopocalypse" documents the history of our robotic overlords uprising and seeking to exterminate all of humanity. Told through the use of shifting first-hand accounts of the uprising, "Robopocalypse" gives us the beginning of the robotic uprising as well as how humanity copes and begins to fight back against our robotic overlords.
"Robopocalypse" is being touted as one of the must read books of the summer season. It’s already been optioned as a movie by Steven Spielberg. It has the potential to be the next big thing in science-fiction publishing, possibly luring in those readers who don’t necessarily always enjoy a good genre novel. There are glowing praises all across the back of the book from some of the biggest selling names in contemporary fiction.
And yet for all of that, I find myself ultimately a bit disappointed by the novel. It feels like it’s ready made to be made into a movie–and that’s not always a good thing. (Michael Crichton was guilty of this in several of his later novels as well (you could almost see him telling the lighting and camera crews where to set up in "Timeline" and "The Lost World").)
As a summer novel, I expect a solid, engaging story with a few characters I have enough interest in to keep me turning the pages as I relax. And therein lies my biggest problem with "Robopocalypse"–about halfway through the book I wasn’t engaged enough by the story or characters to care much about what was happening. Part of the problem is this that all the first person accounts feel pretty much the same in terms of their voice. If not for the introduction to each chapter telling us who was speaking, it’d be difficult to really distinguish one voice from another in the story. And while I had issues with "World War Z," I’ll give Brooks credit there–he at least made sure most of his characters has a distinct voice in telling their portion of the story.
That’s not to say "Robopocalypse" is a complete wash. The story has a few moments that are genuinely compelling. There are enough early in the story that my interest was at least piqued enough to want to keep going and find out how things turned out. The problem is that the early momentum wanes quickly and by the mid-way point of the book I found myself less compelled to keep going as I was in the early stages. I will say there are enough good scenes that a screenwriter should have little problem crafting them together into a solid film.
But it’s a shame the book didn’t inspire more passion and excitement in me. It has a lot of solid potential, but it doesn’t necessarily make the most of the potential.