Wednesday, June 19, 2013

PCP on the Page - Robopocalypse

I hadn't heard of the book Robopocalypse until I heard that Steven Spielberg had acquired the rights to make it into a movie, and in January this year he announced he was halting production on the film so they could work on the script some more before it goes into production (if it ever does).  The fact that Spielberg was even attached to a project with such an interesting and scary sounding title got my attention, and made me want to check out the book.

The author of Robopocalypse, Daniel H. Wilson, has a PhD in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, so he is able to write this book from a position of knowledge and authority about what could potentially be possible with robots in the future.  This enhances the novel and in fact makes it scarier as the gloomy future described in the book could be more likely than many realize.  He also wrote previously the tongue in cheek survivalist book How to Survive a Robot Uprising (which I have not yet read).  So clearly this is something he has given a lot of thought.

The story is similar to that of many other robot uprising films: an artificial intelligence becomes smart enough to be self aware, and it turns on humanity by taking control of many of the technologies that humanity had come to rely on and using it against them, including smart cars and military robots.  The war goes very poorly for humanity in the beginning before they are able to rally and fight back.

The book follows a more unique structure than your traditional novel.  Rather than sticking to one or two character's point of view throughout the entire conflict, the book acts as more of a chronicle of the robot war.  In the opening chapter it is explained that the humans have discovered a memory core computer that has surveillance footage of the incidents that the novel relays, so they are chronicling the wider war for future generations to learn what happened, based on the facts recorded by the machines.

It actually reminds me quite a bit of the novel version of World War Z, in terms of its structure and pacing.  Just like how WWZ was a chronicle report written by a UN employee, here the book is a chronicle written by a soldier in the aftermath of the war.  And given the production difficulties that World War Z faced in adapting its massive structure to a feature film, I can understand why Spielberg put this one on hold in order to get the script right before beginning production.

Overall, it was a pretty interesting read, one that might give you some chills if you fear where technology is going in our world.  If you like your sci-fi with a side of cataclysm, then go check out this book.

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