Robogenesis by Daniel H. Wilson
~post by Salvador
One of my all-time favorite books during my 10 years at BookPeople would surprise most people. It’s the simple story of a robot uprising. More specifically, it’s about an artificial intelligence that becomes aware, escapes into computers around the world, then launches a worldwide attack on humanity using any machine or device with a computer chip to hunt humans down and kill them. Think cars and trucks running down people in the streets or elevators full of unsuspecting tenants plummeting to the basement. The book was Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson, perhaps the only author with a book in our store who has a Ph.D. in robotics.
I was pulled in by the first pages of Robopocalypse when one of the story’s heroes is about to be swarmed by hundreds of “stumpers” as he approaches the hideout of the psychotic A.I., Archos, in the frozen tundra of Alaska. “Stumpers” are walnut-sized robots that scamper along the ground, climb onto anything that moves, then explode if their sensors detect human temperature. The human victims are then left with stumps on one or both legs, hence the name of the tiny bots. It is brilliant creativity like this that truly impressed me over and over as I read this book. But, it was also Mr. Wilson’s talent at creating the visual world of a robot apocalypse that was so compelling that I could see the story as I was reading it. The New War ends with an epic nail-biting battle but the hero isn’t like any hero I’ve ever read before.
I thought the apocalypse was over until an advance reader for Robogenesis, the follow-up to Robopocalypse, landed in my lap a few weeks ago. To say that I was excited is an understatement. I was thrilled! I had no idea that Mr. Wilson wanted to continue the story of a murderous A.I. and the unlikely heroes who try to stop him. But he has, and while Robopocalypse was more of a thriller that focused on how Archos escapes and how humans fight back, Robogenesis focuses more on the tragedy and suffering humans and freeborn robots must endure as they once again risk their lives to save humanity from an even more dangerous version of Archos.
Many of the same human characters from book one return in book two: Lark Iron Cloud, whose injuries remind us how much war changes us and how we can never go back; 14-year-old Matilda Perez, whose story reminds us that adults aren’t the only victims in wars; and Cormac Wallace, whose heroics in the first war may no longer matter in the second war.
I’ll warn you now, the human suffering in Robogenesis is stomach-turning. Perhaps, Mr. Wilson felt he needed to be realistic in book two about how wars really are hell. Or, maybe he’s following the formula set by some modern day storytelling masters such as Steven Spielberg whose second installment of the Star Wars trilogy (The Empire Strikes Back) had more heart and less chasing. It could be that Mr. Wilson hoped to help along the movie version of Robopocalypse (set to be directed by Mr. Spielberg). Either way, while Robogenesis fell just a bit short of the high mark set by the first, it still kept me up reading till 2 AM and was well worth the wait.
Copies of Robogenesis by Daniel H. Wilson are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com