If, like me, you have a newborn or somewhat newborn baby on your hands, you may have been having a hard time getting out to the movies lately. That’s where Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse comes in. Robopocalypse is creative and satisfying in an action-adventure-sci-fi-must-experience-oblivion-of-all-we-know-is-familiar kind of way. Not a great work of literature in any classical sense, this book will fill the void (if you happen to feel one) created by your inability to go out and veg in some air conditioned stadium seating.
Robopocalypse is essentially a screenplay turned novel. Wilson takes the summer blockbuster genre and translates it seamlessly for those of us who crave such things. Every moment has a cinematic familiarity in its slick, visually descriptive style. The story is delivered in classic apocalypse movie format: via neatly divided chapters, each relaying the disjointed perspective of one of the book’s protagonists until their individual experiences gradually converge. The impetus, plot-wise, to deliver the story this way is that the narrator is a soldier who discovers an electronic archive of the entire robo-apocalyptic experience and takes it upon himself to translate the video images and sound files into a single written historical account. While this is a fun literary device that somewhat justifies the scene-scene-scene (a la action flick) format of the book, the author deliberately falls short of telling the entire story in this way. He instead relies on italicized post-chapter summaries to fill in the blanks. But even though it’s relieving to read that your protagonist(s) then went on to do great things, it would have been more fun to actually read the story of it. And while it’s possible to assume that the author is implying that, maybe in the story, there were no archived documents of the post-chapter described events and that therefore it lends the book an amount of literary integrity, this plot-summarizing device comes off more akin to story-telling laziness. And while it’s true that maybe I don’t need every detail of every plot point examined to exhaustion, what suffers is a sense of distance in both a physical and temporal sense. The passage of time just sort of happens magically while in reality (reality?) every struggling moment of the kind of situations that Robopocalypse presents would feel like an eternity (to me at least).
But to focus on such literary shortcomings in this book is to miss the point entirely. This book is candy. Actually this book is popcorn. And if this book is, at times, cheesy, it’s supermarket brie. It might just be melted supermarket brie on popcorn. And do we want to try that at some point? I think maybe we do. And fortunately, it’s not too long. Because if it was anything of a lengthy book, I’d probably have suffered a brie covered popcorn induced stomach ache. Fortunately, it’s the perfect length. And very satisfying.