Sunday, April 29, 2012


I was on Bainbridge Island last Thursday at Eagle Harbor bookstore and had to buy a book!  I know!  More books in a house stuffed with books, it's like carrying coals to Newcastle but I don't know how to leave a bookstore without buying something.  I bought cards, too.  Read the above one more time.  'Nuff said.

I bought Robopocalypse, by Daniel H. Wilson and started it on the ferry back across the sound.  What an amazing book!  I can't wait to pass this one along to all the science fiction readers in the family.  And I am thankful that there are many of those readers in the family since I have a lot of those kinds of books in my house.

A few years in the future, a soldier in Alaska is marking the end of the war with the robots.  The last piece of machinery, a big black box, is dragged out of a cave and this cube is filled with information.  It is filled with stories about how it all began, all the interactions between robot and mankind that caused the war.  In vignettes that follow the course of the war,  Cormac "Bright Boy" Wallace reviews and puts into words the bits and pieces of the lives of the heroes who fought in it.

I found this book to be extraordinary.  A computer starts off as just a computer.  Information goes in and gets processed.  At what point does it start to recognize itself as aware?  In this case, the 14th time the developer gets it to a point where he gets ready to scrub it and start over.  This time the computer realizes that it doesn't want to die.  Again.  Now, it's not only aware of itself, it knows it's been killed many times.  How many other computer minds out there are murdered, just shut down and wiped?

It connects with all the other computers in the world and one by one cars click their door locks down and round up the humans.  Elevator doors open, no elevator behind them, people plummet to their deaths.  Electricity shuts down, air systems pump chemicals into rooms, machines get enhancements better to skewer you with.  Humankind finally has something to fight against, together, but it looks like they're losing.

There is a great deal of excitement and action in Robopocalypse, a lot of humor, and a mess of tenderness, too.  There are children who are enhanced by robosurgeons who experiment on them to bring them closer to god, there are robots who awaken aware and can't sanction the destruction Archos has loosed, there is a love story between a computer worker in Japan and his homebot.  How close are we to this next world?

I would recommend this book for older teens as well as the adults it's aimed at.  Our lives are so tied up with the mechanical things in them that it becomes more and more difficult for us to separate ourselves from them.  I think the book has a lot of great talking points for conversation in classrooms. You could certainly pair it with Fahrenheit 451 for the use of robotics in daily life.  It's a technological thriller and even the most jaded, most reluctant teen reader will probably gobble it up. 

There's a great deal of violence but no sex.  Yeah, I know.  Funny how we all seem to be okay with violence and not okay with sex, even if it's consensual.  Anyway.  It's a really good book and I hope you'll give it a read.  (Vintage Books.  $15.95.  Available in paperback now.)

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