Author: Daniel H. Wilson
Publisher: Random House Audio, 2011 (print available from Doubleday, 2011)
Narrator: Mike Chamberlain
In the not-so-distant future, robots are everywhere. There are ones that act as servants, smart cars and buildings that can operate on their own, military robots, and hundreds more. They are everywhere, performing millions of functions. When man's quest for knowledge goes too far and a powerful artificial intelligence, known as Archos, is summoned, this is the beginning of the end. Archos takes control of all robots that are online, and humankind is under attack by the things it depends on in everyday life. This is the new war, in which billions will die. But humans aren't going down without a fight.
Told as a framed narrative by Cormac Wallace, who, at the end of the war, finds what he calls the "black box" of the whole robot uprising. It contains the stories of what it calls human heroes, starting from the very beginning and going to the very end. Cormac decides he needs to write these stories he sees played by this surviving robot in order for future generations to know and understand what their ancestors endured, and what was sacrificed.
This book has been getting a lot of praise, including winning an Alex Award (given to exceptional adult books with teen appeal), and it is all deserved. I have been wanting to read this since before its Alex Award, and I'm so glad I finally got around to it. This is a sci-fi book that belongs up there with the classics. Slowly building up to what becomes known as Zero Hour with isolated incidents having to do with what are dismissed as malfunctions, all hell breaks loose when Archos unleashes the full power of robot kind on humans.
I loved how the narrative was constructed. Cormac recounts each person's story either in their own words as he hears them on the recordings, or as he sees them from captured video. It was incredible to see how each person or group affected the rest of the characters or how they helped humanity with their actions. I loved seeing them all come together or connect through the course of the book. Though this book is filled with carnage and unspeakable tragedy, there is an undercurrent of the fierceness of the human spirit and the unbreakable hope that comes with it. It is filled with the deepest pain and love; when it comes down to it, we see what each character is made of.
My only problem with the book as a whole was how each first-person narrative was told in the present tense. I couldn't imagine people recounting these events in the present tense out loud, which is what we are told they are doing. But that's my only problem.
Mike Chamberlain did a decent job at narration. He made voices just different enough that the different speakers could be distinguished from one another, and he did a great job at unrolling the story at the right pace. Nothing stood out too much to me, but he told the story well and never took me out of it unnecessarily. And really, that's all this book needed.
Be warned, this is not a book for those who get queasy easily. There is a LOT of blood and guts. People die in horrible ways, in great numbers. But if you can get past that, I promise this book is worth it. It certainly deserved its Alex Award, as I can easily see teens reading and really enjoying this, and I hope more adults will pick it up too.
Disclosure: I got this audiobook from the library.