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Onyx reviews: Robogenesis by Daniel H. Wilson
Reviewed by Bev Vincent, 06/08/2014
Robogenesis, the sequel to Roboapocalypse,
has the feel of the middle book of a trilogy. At the end of the previous book,
Archos R-14, the sentient computer that launched a mechanized and robotic army at
humanity, was destroyed, which seemed to spell the end of the New War. Humanity
was decimated, and civilization was left a smoldering ruin, but at least the threat of being
totally eradicated by a devastating mechanized force seemed to be at an end.
Not so. In its dying moments, Archos emitted a pulse that launched an
entirely new arsenal of sentient electronics determined to expunge everything
alive, as if people were some kind of computer virus that needed to be wiped
from the computer of earth. And one of R-14's predecessors has ascended to take
The best thing about Robogenesis is the author's inventiveness with
respect to the variety of robotic entities he creates. Spider-like monsters reminiscent
of the AT-AT walkers from Star Wars that are used to manage and punish
enslaved humans, for example, or tiny quasi-sentient land mines and explosive
locusts. He even manages to put a
new spin on the zombie craze with dead soldiers who are reanimated by robotic
parasites that interface with their brains. And, perhaps, a nod to Godzilla with
the rise of an awesome creative/destructive force from deep in the ocean off the coast of
The worst thing is that Wilson repeats his tendency from the first book to
pre-summarize each chapter from the perspective of the evil entity, dubbed Arayt
robbing the book of much of its tension. Readers already have a good idea how a
particular encounter or battle will turn out based on this information. The book
would have been better served without these snippets, for they contribute
nothing and detract considerably.
The storyline is chaotic, jumping around the world and leaping forward and
back in time. Characterization takes the back seat, for the most part, with plot
driving the novel, although this plot is a somewhat erratic driver. It's not
completely clear what artificial intelligence is doing what, and whether or not
there's an internal war being waged between computer overlords. Are the modified
humans being used against other survivors, or are they pawns (or allies) in this
silicon-based war? All of the disorganized and confusing activity of the book's
first half begins to dovetail into a looming confrontation over a computer site
located beneath the mountains.
Many of the characters from Roboapocalypse return, though in a few
cases they are not the same as they were at the end of the previous battle.
Survivors regard some of them as heroes but others, mainly those who have been
biomechanically altered, no matter how slightly, are deemed foes and are to be
destroyed. Wilson makes a light-handed allusion to the plight of freed slaves in
the hostility faced by the freeborn computers, and presents a superficial
discourse on the blurring of the lines between man and machine.
This is a bleak and sometimes plodding sequel to a book that was sufficient
in itself, one that did not necessarily call for a second act. The first book,
as pared down and cinematic as it was, had the benefit of some original scenes
featuring ordinary objects coming to life and turning against humanity. The
sequel has none of that, which makes the story seem a little stale.
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