Our cars can parallel park themselves. Our vacuums can zoom independently around the carpet. Add a few advancements in artificial intelligence and the setting in Robopocalypse is not so different from today. That is what makes Daniel H. Wilson’s debut novel so jarring.
Robopocalypse begins at the end, several years after Zero Hour, the moment when all the robots in the world turned against humanity. The New War has been won and the robot behind it all—Archos—has been defeated. Readers meet Cormac Wallace, whose crew of guerrillas finds a solid black cube buried deep underground. Within the cube is a special file kept by Archos that includes security footage, recorded conversations and stored video, all documenting the humans Archos had considered “heroes.” As one of those heroes, Cormac takes it upon himself to write their stories. The result is a truly entertaining, gruesome and humbling novel, with each chapter memorializing the humans and robots that were most pivotal in the rise and fall of the New War. The seemingly unrelated heroes, scattered across the globe and described with an intensity that suggests that each is more important than the last, give shape to Robopocalypse as their minute rebellions come together for the singular cause of survival.
Wilson, despite his Ph.D. in robotics, allows nearly no time for jargon as the apocalyptic pacing burns through the story. The chapters feature children, an old Japanese man, soldiers in the Middle East and old-world warriors in Oklahoma, and each voice allows new humor and horror, instantly banning any chance for a moment’s rest. There’s a reason Steven Spielberg has a movie version of the novel in the works: Wilson’s debut is one of a kind.