Home > Genre, scifi > Book Review: Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson (Audiobook narrated by Mike Chamberlain)

Book Review: Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson (Audiobook narrated by Mike Chamberlain)

Robot face with red eyes.Summary:
Cormac Wallace reviews the surveillance tape taken by Rob (robots) during the New War–the war between humans and robots.  He thus recounts the history of the war to the reader.

Basically this is supposed to be World War Z only with robots.  It falls incredibly short.

What makes World War Z such an awesome book (beyond the fact that zombies are better than robots) is that it is a mock oral history of a war.  This is a thing that actually happens after a war in real life.  Oral historians go around and gather real information from the survivors about the war.  Although the NPR style narrator frames the chapters, they are all given by different survivors from their own perspectives.

The problem with Robopocalypse is that it tries to use the same method for a very different story.  Much as Wilson may want a robot war to be like a zombie war, it ISN’T.  And it shouldn’t be recounted in the same way.  Wilson sort of realizes this, because he has Wallace recount the war by watching the “black box” surveillance of Rob.  The thing is, though, that really doesn’t work in book form.

A)  Why would Cormac write down something that is already available visually?  Why wouldn’t he just copy/pasta the videotape and send it out?

B)  The chapters swing wildly between Cormac describing what he’s seeing on screen (insanely boring) and random first hand accounts from everyone from himself to dead people. Yeah. Dead people have first-person accounts in this book. THAT MAKES NO SENSE.

Also, the pacing is off.  The build up to Rob attacking is painfully slow, but Rob taking over misses a lot of the details that would be interesting.  Similarly, details as to how people all over the world start collaborating and beat the brilliant Rob is sped up and glossed over too much.  Essentially, things that should have more space in the book have too little, and things that should have very little space have too much.

I have to say that the narration by Mike Chamberlain did not help matters any.  His voice is practically monotone, and he adds nothing to the story.

The concept of a robot war is a good one, although I admit to having more loyalty to zombies.  However, the format used in World War Z just will not work in a robot war.  Wilson should have focused on one small group of people or actually tried out the whole oral history thing.  This bouncing around between perspectives and verbally recounting surveillance footage simply does not work.  I cannot recommend this book. There is simply far better plotted scifi out there.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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  1. June 16, 2012 at 1:15 am

    I have to agree. I was totally underwhelmed by this, and every time I read the glowing reviews I was frustrated that I was missing something. I’m an obsessive Post Apocalyptic freak, and really wanted to love this one, but it just didn’t come together for me.

    And don;t get me started on the narration. It hit all my pet peaves. He reads the first person account of the female congresswomen in his male narrative default voice, only reading her dialogue as a female. He reads the British POV’s with an accent, but the Japanese POV’s as middle American.

    I rated it a bit higher than you in my review, because there were some fun individual moments to the book that I enjoyed but overall, it just fell flat. That being said, I actually reserved his new book Amped, through overdrive. I hear it’s a more consistent story, so I’m hoping for something better there.

    • June 16, 2012 at 11:40 am

      Glad to see some agreement here!

      You’ve put the problem with the narration much more eloquently than I did, although I will say that I assumed the Japanese pov was accent-free since he was, presumably, speaking in Japanese and thus without an accent? But I honestly did find the random British accent distracting since it was the only time Chamberlain put one on.

      I think I am a bit harsher in my review because a) it’s trying to be World War Z, which is much better and b) to offset some of the positivity when it’s really a boring book.

  1. July 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm

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