Disclaimer, right up front: this is spoilery and unaffectionate both.
Thoughts on Robopocalypse
First off; I am seeing a very
strong resemblance to [b:World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War|8908|World War Z An Oral History of the Zombie War|Max Brooks|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320398267s/8908.jpg|817]
Second; I find most of the closing pieces for each chapter very annoying. I am aware
there is a war. This book I am reading, it is called Robopocalypse
, and I have cleverly made an inference from that title. Plus there was the frame story setup in the introduction, so I know how the war ended. And I'm okay with this! But it does mean that there is not a lot of dramatic tension; there's more mild curiosity.
Third, moving into fourth: I don't mind the POV characters being so closely related; I'm into the third part of the book, and so far I think I've seen two who haven't shown up again. (ETA: Three. Forgot the brilliant mad scientist.) It gives the impression of a bit of a smaller scale, but at the same time it's easier to relate to individual characters, so okay.
But I don't need to know Marilyn Whatsis's mother is the congresswoman. The toys trying to convince her to bring mommy home "to play with us" makes it pretty clear that Mommy Is On The Robot's List, and the speaking about the "robot defense act" answers the question of why. By telling us in advance who Marilyn's mother is, there's no question of why, especially since her
chapter ended with the discussion of the RDA.
(I was rereading an article from a screenwriting blog about trusting the reader, this morning. About not spelling everything out, not making it super-explicit, and... Doesn't having a reader need to make an inference or two, to think and draw conclusions, just draw them further in? Is this not a plus?)
I'm also not clear on the timeline, exactly. Alright, isolated incidents building up to Zero Hour could prompt a few informed/paranoid people to start trying to set up prophylactic defenses, but Zero Hour seemed like a very one-fell-swoop maneuveur. What was the robot defense act meant to do? What did
it do? Why would Archos care?
Also, the end of the precursor period being in November, and everything starting around Thanksgiving, made the precursor period seem much shorter than the three years it's meant to be. Side-effect of being a Canadian, maybe? After all, Thanksgiving is in November, everyone knows that. >.>
...actually, given the timing on "Roughneck", maybe it *is*.
Slice of life while reading:
By the way, "Roughneck"? Brilliant chapter. Possibly the best one I have read so far. It is horrible and doomed and lonely and... Yeah.
Nomura is interesting; more interesting is that none of his "friends" are humanoid robots. They're the little trundling postbox, the (somewhere off-screen) convenience-store machines, the factory machines. Mikiko is humanoid, of course--more approachably so than most lovedolls, judging by her description--but she's inactive. I'm wondering if it's a deliberate stylistic decision. I read the scenes with him and the image that comes to mind is very strongly that of a sorceror in his cave, conjuring up strange spirits and surrounded by something inhuman and fantastic.
He doesn't have humanoid servants; he doesn't have slaves. He has little magic helpers. This makes him more palatable, strips out the idea of him being outnumbered (because by the time you read "Akuma", which is book 3 chapter 1, you start getting veeeeerrry twitchy about humanoid robots and cars, so seeing him surrounded by humanoid robots would evoke an eye-rolling), and distinguishes in the mental eye between his helpers and the bad robots.
(Also, the little wizened old oriental man with an unspeakably good gift for dealing with the enemy? Very WWZ
. Also I think it does not quite manage to be entirely clear of the Ninja Sensei stereotype. Just saying. Mind, WWZ
did not clear that hurdle either.)
((Also: Archos? I am fairly sure not all babies are pink
, and that not all progress stems from the ones that are. Maybe "flushed". You could have gone with flushed. A brilliant robot soon to be overmind that is comfortable discussing all of humanity could maybe sound a bit less like a newscaster on one of those alien invasion movies where all the tactical maps show nothing is happening north of the 49th parallel.))
Right, so, [bc:World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War|8908|World War Z An Oral History of the Zombie War|Max Brooks|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320398267s/8908.jpg|817] Compare and contrast.
Most significant difference from World War Z
; the robots are already here. Everywhere. It makes the sudden ?blitzkreig? strike more plausible and more disorienting;
Second most significant difference; you can have a lot
more messages from the dead. And so far I've only found one. I know that at least one of the characters being followed survives to the end (being the narrator of the frame story, and all), and I have distinctly strong suspicions about both the Osage cop and Mr. Nomura--
It has just dawned on me that there are two female characters, and one is a child and the other was portrayed as a Strident Disbeliever (so why *did* she work on the RDA again?). But there's Fitch, and Fitch rocks. Still, thinking the guys are getting a lot more attention... I don't know. Will see. (Dawn, too, from NY. ...okay, it's that there are only two female *narrators*, because Fitch doesn't count on that score. I am... not seeing anything like the suburban housewife I was fully prepared to hate who hulked out and tore a zombie's head off, I'm just saying.)
(Heh. The other
article I was reading this morning was Scalzi's piece on great female characters in science fiction movies, a list which runs (1) Ellen Ripley, (2) Sarah Connor (from T2
, which was an excellent movie), Princess Leia sort of, and then one descends into spinny ninja killbot babes that are fighting zombies/robots/evil totalitarian regimes/something faceless, pick one. Oh, Robopocalypse
, this was not a good morning for us to meet.)
Slice of life while reading:
ARGH. Lurker has just died nobly, fine, but how the hell did he not check to see if the exoskeleton had an external communications port? How did he not even worry about the possibility?
Hokay. Transhuman chapter, fine. Rob not getting a chance to hobble the implant, also fine. And now the RDA is coming up again, which is at least interesting. I will give this book another chance to have the Perez congresswoman have mattered.
Seriously, this book loses a *lot* by not taking full advantage of the conceit of the story. Perez's story would have been a lot more poignant if she died, a lot more plausible given the situation--she's inside a work camp waiting to have her throat crushed!--I wouldn't want to shake the teeth out of whoever applied "extreme duress" to have her talk, and the whole "no further record" thing would not seem like such a great flashing "oh hay, this character is out of the story now even though she's not dead". Just... It feels clumsy. It felt more than clumsy. This chapter strikes me as one of the biggest failings of the book, honestly.Robopocalypse
has a beautiful conceit for its frame story and it's completely ignoring here. I read it and I'm left wondering who interviewed her
. All the information comes from the black box of the New War. If the robots interviewed her, it really doesn't sound like she was under extreme duress--I cannot imagine this character relaying things so calmly and clearly to the robots that were torturing her and that had cut out the eyes of her baby girl. If the humans interviewed her, and the robots somehow recorded it, I would like to shake the humans' teeth out because there is nothing to be gained from hurting her until she talks. If she was interviewed after the war, well, no she damn well wasn't
. The frame story says so.
So really, what the hell.
The narrative voice setting up the frame occasionally seems to forget what it knows.
Beginning of chapter: "It [this message] was retransmitted worldwide by Mathilda Perez in New York City."
End of chapter: "In addition, there is deeply dismaying evidence that this call to arms was received abroad."
(Yes. Yes, it's the same speaker. Come on, now.)
"The Cowboy Way" - I was really pretty curious about why the two squads of military-grade humanoid robots did not join in, against Archos's explicit orders.
I didn't expect to get one. This isn't a science-fiction novel, after all. It's not even really a horror novel, although I was sort of hoping. It's an action-thriller, and... well, explanations occasionally run thin on the ground in that genre.
And when the explanation is given--dammit, that is not *mysterious*, and I do not see why it was not just mentioned.
And--dammit, this is tiring. This is tiring and annoying. I think it could have been an engaging book if someone had given it another run-through to check and see that it wasn't spinning off on tangents and contradicting itself. It has some beautiful and brilliant moments. But as is it's not very good, and coming out so fast on the heels of World War Z
is doing it zero favours. I might not have been quite so annoyed if I hadn't recently read better; but without the annoyance, I'm not sure I would have bothered to keep going.