This is an exciting week for new releases. I’m kicking it off with what seems like a sure-fire blockbuster. After all, Dreamworks bought the movie rights before the novel was even finished, and Steven Spielberg signed on as director. It’s Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson, author of How to Survive a Robot Uprising (Bloomsbury, 2005) and How to Build a Robot Army (Bloomsbury, 2007).
In an io9 article titled “Behind the Fiction: The Science of Robopocalypse,” Wilson explains the robotics research behind the book. (He actually holds a Ph.D. in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon.) Realism like this only makes the fiction more entertaining. And if your teens want more detail, point them to Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku (Doubleday, 2011). It’s dense, but the “Future of AI : rise of the machines” chapter will satisfy their curiosity.
Is the book based on the movie or is the movie based on the book? Somewhere in between? “I’m over the moon about [Spielberg’s movie adaptation]. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime situation, especially because I was able to talk with the screenwriter and the production designer and Spielberg himself during the course of writing the book.”–from USA Today.
In April, Doubleday launched a Robopocalypse book trailer contest. You can view the finalists on YouTube. Show them to your teens, while making this a summer reading recommendation.
Personally, comparisons to the style of Max Brooks’ World War Z (Crown, 2006) landed it on my TBR pile.
Adult/High School–The Robot Wars begin in the near future when a computer scientist developing artificial intelligence decides, for the 28th time, to “kill” his seemingly underachieving program. In this instance, however, the computer anticipates its own termination and overrides the destructive command, telling the scientist that only computers can save the planet from the destructive nature of humans. The computer, named Athos, kills the scientist and launches the war that will preserve life on Earth by extinguishing humans. It begins simply enough, with cars running over their owners or diverting into head on crashes, but soon enough millions of tiny spiderlike machines scuttle toward human body heat and explode. Even smaller machines can penetrate the skin, enter the bloodstream, and explode when they reach the heart. Of course, killing humans one-by-one is not the most effective ways to achieve humanicide, but the personal nature of the attacks makes for the kind of tension that will have readers squirming on their beach towels this summer. The heroic actions of the handful of characters that first de-program the computers and then find and attack Athos’s arctic lair are told in the form of briefing reports captured after the war. This accessible format with its emphasis on survival in battle (rather than the science and philosophy of AI) and the full-throttle action will have particular appeal for reluctant readers and those who enjoy the kind of science-gone-wrong thrillers that were the hallmark of Michael Crichton’s career.–John Sexton, formerly of Westchester Library System, Tarrytown, NY