It is easy to see why Steven Spielberg wants to make a movie out of this novel about a future revolt by robots . . .

After all, the book - by robotics engineer Daniel H. Wilson - comes across as 28 Days Later meets Terminator Salvation; or World War Z rewritten with robots instead of zombies.

When the world’s first genuine AI named Archos becomes sentient in the near future, it decides within mere minutes to save the Earth . . . by wiping out humanity.

Unlike SkyNet it however doesn’t cause a full-scale nuclear war, but uses robots of all sorts – house servants, sentient cars, etc. – to kill off humanity without harming any of the other animal species on the planet, all of which makes Archos the ultimate eco-warrior one supposes.

Wiping out humanity isn’t as easy though and Robopocalypse tells the two-year war that ensues as human resistance fighters battle Archos and its robotic minions. Along the way the humans are helped by “Freeborn” robots – robots which become sentient and wishes to be free of Archos’ control.

That humanity ultimately wins the fight shouldn’t come as much of a spoiler here. After all, the book gives away as much within its first few pages! Like Max Brooks’ (superior) World War Z novel about humanity fighting a planet-wide zombie plague, Wilson’s book is recounted as a piece of “future history.” Like the Brooks novel, it follows several stories and characters shifting perspective all the time.

"It has some pure cornball moments that'll make you want to roll your eyes. . ."

Wilson’s book is more focused as many of the characters make repeat appearances, which should make it easier for any screenwriter to adapt.

However this literary device, which is central to the book, is Robopocalypse’s weakest point. For starters it invites comparisons to Brooks’ much-better World War Z and in the process comes across a rip-off. Second, it gives away the ending far too early on in the book. Third, it comes across as lazy, as if Wilson couldn’t be bothered filling in some of the blanks between the narrative, leaving out the kind of details that a more skilled – and patient – writer would put in.

Finally the book has some pure cornball moments that’ll make you want to roll your eyes and groan aloud. For a skilled screenwriter none of these issues should present a major problem however. (One can only hope though that Spielberg isn’t too attracted to those very same cornball moments as he is wont to do and leaves them in.)

Robopocalypse’s biggest problem is however that there isn’t much in it that is particularly original or which audiences haven’t seen before in the likes of the various Terminator or other post-apocalypse movies with human resistance groups fighting aliens or whatever.

Still, Robopocalypse is an okay airport read and at worst should make for an okay popcorn movie. After all, this is Spielberg we’re talking about here and even his lesser sci-fi efforts (AI, the War of the Worlds remake) are worthwhile even though flawed.

Point is one expected more of a guy who has a Ph.D. in Robotics. After all, even as far back as the 1950s Isaac Asimov grew so tired of all the robot revolt stories that he wrote his classic I, Robot in response to them . . .



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