By Cynthia Ayala
The robots have risen, awoken to kill and destroy the humans that have made them servants. But a small group of humans are fighting to save the earth, to save their kind, and survive through the years. With help from people both near and far, these humans might have a chance at survival or succumb to death.
Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson is the first in a sci-fi series published on April 17, 2012, by Knopf Doubleday. While frighteningly realistic, the novel presents itself with bland vignettes spoiled by blurbs at the beginning of each chapter that takes away some of the surprise and suspense that would have made this novel richer.
The biggest problem with this story is the fact that brief vignettes spoil the chapters. Wilson stylized this book so that the chapters would go between the characters beginning with before the war to how their lives interconnect and how they were able to face the robot apocalypse both apart and then finally together. The novel certainly builds the proper momentum, but much of the surprise is taken away from the story with the blurbs at the beginning of each chapter explaining why this incident is so important and how affected the war so much. Wilson also adds a blurb at the end of the chapter to summarize, slowing down the pace of the novel incredibly. This novel had the potential to be very exciting, but with the writer leaving no room for surprises, it just became dull. It’s not needed because the novel opens up with the end of the war and with the chronicler commenting on the fact that this novel is nothing but his retellings of recording of what has happened. Opening vignettes not needed but closing vignettes, those would have been enough for this style of storytelling.
Wilson does know how to build tension, and even though much of the story is revealed before each chapter, some of the action within the chapters themselves does lend something to the reader. Some of those scenes are frightening, and others raise the momentum of the chapters, at least briefly to keep the novel interesting. Wilson is clearly a very talented writer, but he says too much when he doesn’t need to. The world he has established here, the action, the drama, the frightfulness, they all come alive on their own because of the characters. And these characters are well-developed characters. Each one is unique, they each have a powerful voice to lend to the reader, and they all develop very differently, as war does affect people differently in reality.
Another benefit of the story is the fact that it doesn’t just launch the reader into the war, it builds to it, it established the robots rise, their motivation for rising and why the author chose these characters to follow in the wake of everything. They are realistic; they have those moments where when something bad happens they think of the most rudimentary things they could because that’s reality and that makes them more relatable to the audience.
Nevertheless, despite all the good in the novel regarding tension and characterization, none of that saves it from being so slow to the point of boring. And it’s not a boring book, but when all the surprise is taken away chapter after chapter, the reader loses interest in the story. (★★★☆☆ | C)