Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Cormac Wallace, leader of the Brightboy Squad, is a member of the human resistance against an artificial intelligence named Archos, which uses robots and other machines to take over the world. As the war ends, Cormac finds a basketball-sized black cube, which contains the entire history of the robot war. The robots apparently wanted to share this information with their human enemies so the war would be remembered. Cormac is not initially interested in sharing the cube’s information with the other surviving soldiers. But he changes his mind when he discovers that the information cube is actually more of a “hero archive,” honoring the fallen humans. The rest of Robopocalypse is Cormac’s recounting of the recordings in the hero archive, in chronological order from the invention of Archos to the end of the war.
At Lake Novus Research Laboratories in Washington state, Professor Nicholas Wasserman talks to his newly created AI (artificial intelligence) program, named Archos. Wasserman created Archos with the ability to develop knowledge at a previously unimaginable level, just to see how far AI could evolve. Archos speaks to Wasserman through a computerized voice and says that he is fascinated by life and wants to study life itself. Archos says that humanity no longer needs to pursue knowledge because he will now take over that task. Archos calls himself a god and says that by creating him, Wasserman has made humans obsolete. Wasserman attempts to destroy the Archos program, but before he can, Archos kills Wasserman by removing the oxygen from the sealed laboratory room.
In a recorded interview, a fast-food restaurant employee named Jeff Thompson gives his testimony about the first known case of a robot malfunction. One night, a domestic robot enters the Freshee’s Frogurt yogurt store and attacks Jeff, picking him off the ground and dislocating his shoulder. The robot continues to attack Jeff until Jeff’s co-worker Felipe defends him. The robot kills Felipe, but Jeff manages to deactivate the machine and survive the encounter.
Ryu Aoki, a machine repairman in Tokyo, Japan, tells the story of a prank that he and his friend Jun pulled on an elderly factory worker named Mr. Nomura. Mr. Nomura lives with a female-looking robot, Mikiko, with whom he has a romantic relationship. Because Mr. Nomura’s android companion disgusts Ryu, he arranges to alter her programming so she will visit Mr. Nomura at the factory, which will likely embarrass him. Surprisingly, when Mikiko arrives at the factory, she attacks Mr. Nomura and nearly strangles him before the nearby workers subdue her. Mr. Nomura survives the incident and begins to research why his android companion attacked him for no reason.
These early attacks are part of Archos’ precursor virus, intended to measure humanity’s response to robot aggression. To deal with these increasingly common robot malfunctions, American Congresswoman Laura Perez proposes a bill called the robot defense act. Archos retaliates by having Laura’s 10-year-old daughter, Mathilda, attacked by her robotic Baby-Comes-Alive doll. Mathilda is barely injured by the encounter, but the incident further convinces Congresswoman Perez that humans need a stronger defense against robots.
After several months of seemingly spontaneous robot malfunctions, an event retroactively known as Zero Hour occurs. Archos unleashes a full technological attack on humanity: driverless cars begin to hunt down pedestrians, planes crash onto busy streets and elevators drop people to their deaths.
The human survivors of Zero Hour manage to fight back by destroying roads and buildings so the robots will have difficulty traveling. On the Gray Horse reservation, members of the Osage Nation lead a large portion of the human resistance. They capture and reprogram robot walker scouts for their own use.
As the war progresses, the robots place millions of people in forced-labor camps. Many people are subjected to “transhuman” surgeries that remove parts of their bodies and replace the parts with machines. In Camp Scarsdale, Mathilda Perez’ eyes are replaced with cybernetic implants, which allow her to see inside of the machines. Laura Perez dies while helping her children escape from Camp Scarsdale, but Mathilda and Nolan Perez escape to New York City. The children join Marcus and Dawn Johnson, a married couple who are leading the New York resistance. Mathilda discovers that her eye-implants also allow her to control robots with her mind, which proves valuable for the resistance.
For many months, the human survivors of Zero Hour are isolated into small groups because of a lack of satellite communication. An English teenager nicknamed Lurker destroys the British Telecom Tower, disabling the jamming signal Archos is using to block satellite communication. This allows the human resistance to talk to each other long-distance and pool their knowledge and resources. Two years after Zero Hour, the pockets of human resistance finally unite to retaliate against Archos and the robots.
In Japan, Mr. Nomura repairs his robot-wife, Mikiko, and frees her mind from Archos’ control. Mikiko then transmits a signal, which frees other humanoid robots from Archos’ command. Nine Oh Two is among the first of these “freeborn” androids who decide to help humanity.
Cormac Wallace and the Brightboy squad join forces with Nine Oh Two and his Freeborn squad just in time to battle against the reanimated bodies of dead humans who are controlled by robotic parasites. Soon, the Brightboy squad is stranded in one place, its members unable to move openly for fear of being attacked by the robotic parasites and turned into weapons themselves. The android Freeborn squad is not vulnerable to parasite attacks, so it storms Archos’ Alaskan bunker with the help of radio-transmitted advice from Mathilda Perez. Nine Oh Two disables Archos’ antenna, which keeps the robot armies from functioning. Nine Oh Two also destroys the mainframe computer where Archos is based, effectively killing the entity known as Archos and ending the war.
Back in the present day, Cormac Wallace has finished writing down what he has learned from the hero archive. Even after the atrocities he has seen, Cormac is hopeful for the future.
Laura Perez says, “Thank God.” There are churches on the Osage Nation reservation.
Other Belief Systems
Cormac says that the enemy robots look like people and animals from another universe, built by another god. Professor Wasserman refers to Archos as if it were a demon, saying that he summoned Archos into existence with incantations of computer code. Archos calls himself a god and says that humanity has evolved throughout history for the purpose of creating him.
Citizens of Afghanistan pray while facing toward Mecca. The SAP One robot on military duty in Afghanistan quotes passages of the Koran to passersby. An Afghani teenager prays for the souls of his deceased friends who were killed by the robots.
Lonnie Wayne Blanton says that the Osage Nation reservation of Gray Horse is located on a hill, as if it were being lifted high so the gods could watch over the Osage ceremonies and make sure they were being sufficiently honored. Members of the Osage Nation perform a war dance to determine how they should react to the robot uprising.
Mr. Nomura believes that every object has a soul, including robots and inanimate objects. He thinks that the malfunctioning robots are under a bad spell and do not want to harm humanity. He says that all things come from the mind of God, but lately, the mind of God has gone insane.
Lurker calls Archos “the devil in the machine.”
The names of Jesus, Christ and God are taken in vain numerous times, sometime with the word d--n. The f-word is used even more often by itself or with mother in front of it. Other profanity used: b--tard, h---, a--, s---, d--n, buls---, p---ed, a--, slut, c--t, and b--ch.
Professor Wasserman suffocates to death in a sealed laboratory room after Archos eliminates the oxygen supply. A domestic robot dislocates Jeff Thompson’s shoulder and snaps his collarbone. Jeff’s head bleeds when the robot smashes him against a refrigerator. The robot also attacks Jeff’s co-worker Felipe, crushing Felipe’s jaw and eventually killing him.
Mr. Nomura’s android companion, Mikiko, bites his face and attempts to crush his windpipe with her hands. An American military robot punches an Afghani insurgent, caving the man’s face inward. The robot uses an AK-47 to shoot several American soldiers in the head, killing each of them.
In robot labor camps, robots mutilate humans and fuse their limbs with mechanical attachments. One boy has a pair of industrial-sized scissors in place of a hand.
Toward the end of the war, the robot parasites tunnel into human corpses and make them talk by manipulating their lungs and vocal chords. Graphic violence is featured throughout the novel. People are shot, stabbed, blown up by bombs and poisoned by radiation.
Mr. Nomura lives with a female humanoid robot named Mikiko and has a romantic relationship with her. Ryu Aoki says that it is not uncommon for men to keep robotic love dolls in their rooms or to watch pornography that features robots. Ryu lifts Mikiko’s dress and finds that she has no sexual organs and is made like a Barbie doll.
In one of Lurker’s prank calls, he gives the police a false name and says that he has stabbed his wife’s boyfriend in the face after discovering that his wife had been committing adultery.
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Alcohol: Soldiers get drunk after the war.
Drugs: Jeff Thompson mentions his co-worker stepping outside to smoke marijuana after work.
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Readability Age Range
14 and up
Daniel H. Wilson
Originally published by Doubleday, a division of Random House Inc.