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Robopocalypse
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Robopocalypse

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by Daniel H. Wilson
     
 

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They are in your house. They are in your car. They are in the skies…Now they’re coming for you.
 
 
In the near future, at a moment no one will notice, all the dazzling technology that runs our world will unite and turn against us. Taking on the persona of a shy human boy, a childlike but massively powerful artificial

Overview

They are in your house. They are in your car. They are in the skies…Now they’re coming for you.
 
 
In the near future, at a moment no one will notice, all the dazzling technology that runs our world will unite and turn against us. Taking on the persona of a shy human boy, a childlike but massively powerful artificial intelligence known as Archos comes online and assumes control over the global network of machines that regulate everything from transportation to utilities, defense and communication. In the months leading up to this, sporadic glitches are noticed by a handful of unconnected humans – a single mother disconcerted by her daughter’s menacing “smart” toys, a lonely Japanese bachelor who is victimized by his domestic robot companion, an isolated U.S. soldier who witnesses a ‘pacification unit’ go haywire – but most are unaware of the growing rebellion until it is too late.
 
When the Robot War ignites — at a moment known later as Zero Hour — humankind will be both decimated and, possibly, for the first time in history, united. Robopocalypse is a brilliantly conceived action-filled epic, a terrifying story with heart-stopping implications for the real technology all around us…and an entertaining and engaging thriller unlike anything else written in years.
 
DANIEL H. WILSON earned a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University. He is the author of such nonfiction works as How to Survive a Robot Uprising. Wilson lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and daughter. 
 
 

Editorial Reviews

Daniel H. Wilson, the author of this book, has a doctorate in robotics from prestigious Carnegie Mellon and his writing credits include the nonfiction How to Survive A Robot Uprising and How to Build a Robot Army. That knowledge alone should activate your senses as you enter Robopocalypse, a realm where robots run free and humans flee skittering in many directions. Told with the unfolding menace of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, this novel will keep you up late and your computer unplugged.

Publishers Weekly
Roboticist Wilson (How to Survive a Robot Uprising) turns to fiction with this bland and derivative series of connected vignettes describing a rebellion by humanity's robot helpers. Looking back on the war, Cormac Wallace, soldier in the human resistance, offers portentous framing commentary for recordings taken by evil computer program Archos. Many of the accounts were obtained under torture or other extreme circumstances, yet the narrators are curiously devoid of feeling ("As I watch my blood smearing behind me on the tile floor, I think, shit, man, I just mopped that") as domestic robots kill, soldier robots go haywire, airplanes attempt to collide, people fight to survive, and a resistance forms. Steven Spielberg has optioned the property; perhaps the melodrama will play better on the screen than it does on the page. (June)
Library Journal
This is a fast-moving action story about a war in the near future between human and robot, as documented in a secret robot archive unearthed after the war is over. It starts when an artificial intelligence named Archos discovers that its creator intends to terminate it as he has its 13 predecessors. Archos, grabbing control of the lab and killing its creator, transmits a virus to other machines that turns them into its slaves. The change unfolds slowly: a child's "smart" toys threaten her; a soldier watches a U.S. "pacification unit" in Afghanistan run wild; a robot love object savages its suitor. By the time people realize their danger, the machines are in charge. Some people escape, but the robots reshape to become more efficient at hunting and killing humans. For most of the book, the robots are winning. That this reads like a movie scenario is not surprising; Steven Spielberg has committed to direct it as a feature film to be released in 2013. VERDICT Robotics engineer Wilson's first novel may sound like it's cloned from the Terminator films, but it offers enough on its own to attract a sizable reading audience. [See Prepub Alert, 12/6/10.]—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
Kirkus Reviews

In the not-too-distant future, a sentient computer program escapes from a research facility and initiates a bloody robot revolt against humankind.

Dr. Nicholas Wasserman knew his sentient computer program Archos' nearly infinite processing power rendered it too dangerous to exist outside the controlled environment of his research facility. But despite his efforts to contain it, Archos proves way too smart even for Dr. Wasserman: It figures out a way to kill its creator and escape, with the aim of saving all the innocent life-forms on the planet from the scourge of the human race. Once free, Archos manipulates a human drilling crew into creating a bunker in the wilds of Alaska and depositing a self-assembling unit to house itself in the safety of an underground crater left over from a nuclear test detonation. From there, it spreads to control machines around the world, and after setting the groundwork, causes them to either murder humans or enslave them in forced-labor camps. Archos' victory seems complete, until pockets of human resistance start to spring up around the world. Still, things are looking bad for the human race until a young girl comes along who, due to a half-completed operation by one of Archos' surgical robots, has an ability that might even the odds for the humans as they unite in a final drive to destroy Archos once and for all. The action in robotics doctorate Wilson's debut novel starts in the immediate aftermath of the eventual human victory over Archos' forces, and unfolds via a series of events recorded by the robots to mark key turning points in the war, as edited and annotated by a human soldier. This episodic structure lets Wilson skip from good bit to good bit without the expository drudgery and unnecessary, usually ham-fisted brand of "character development" via internal monologue that so often bogs down the narrative pace of books of this genre. As it is, things pop along at a wonderfully breakneck pace, and by letting his characters reveal themselves through their actions, Wilson creates characters that spring to life.

Vigorous, smart and gripping, this debut novel is currently being turned into a feature film directed by Steven Spielberg.

From the Publisher
“It’s terrific page-turning fun.”—Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly
 
“Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse is...an ingenious, instantly visual story of war between humans and robots.” – Janet Maslin, New York Times 

“It'll be scarier than "Jaws": We don't have to go in the water, but we all have to use gadgets.”—Wall Street Journal

“A superbly entertaining thriller…[Robopocalypse has] everything you'd want in a beach book.” – Richmond Times-Dispatch

Robopocalypse is the kind of robot uprising novel that could only have been written in an era when robots are becoming an ordinary part of our lives. This isn't speculation about a far-future world full of incomprehensible synthetic beings. It's five minutes into the future of our Earth, full of the robots we take for granted. If you want a rip-roaring good read this summer, Robopocalypse is your book.”—io9.com
 
“You're swept away against your will… a riveting page turner.” — Associated Press

“Things pop along at a wonderfully breakneck pace, and by letting his characters reveal themselves through their actions, Wilson creates characters that spring to life. Vigorous, smart and gripping.” —Kirkus

"A brilliantly conceived thriller that could well become horrific reality. A captivating tale, Robopocalypse will grip your imagination from the first word to the last, on a wild rip you won't soon forget. What a read…unlike anything I’ve read before." —Clive CusslerNew York Times bestselling author
  
"An Andromeda Strain for the new century, this is visionary fiction at its best: harrowing, brilliantly rendered, and far, far too believable."—Lincoln Child, New York Times bestselling author of Deep Storm
  
Robopocalypse reminded me of Michael Crichton when he was young and the best in the business. This novel is brilliant, beautifully conceived, beautifully written (high-five, Dr. Wilson)…but what makes it is the humanity. Wilson doesn't waste his time writing about 'things,' he's writing about human beings — fear, love, courage, hope. I loved it.” —Robert Crais, New York Times bestselling author of The Sentry
 
"Futurists are already predicting the day mankind builds its replacement, Artificial Intelligence.  Daniel Wilson shows what might happen when that computer realizes its creators are no longer needed.  Lean prose, great characters, and almost unbearable tension ensure that Robopocalypse is going to be a blockbuster.  Once started I defy anyone to put it down." —Jack DuBrul, New York Times bestselling author

"The parts of this book enter your mind, piece by piece, where they self-assemble into a story that makes you think, makes you feel, and makes you scared." – Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

"Author [Daniel Wilson], who holds a doctorate in robotics, shows great promise as a worthy successor to Michael Crichton as Wilson, like the late Crichton, is skilled in combining cutting-edge technology with gripping action scenes. Expect a big demand for this frenetic thriller."—Booklist

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385533850
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/07/2011
Pages:
347
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.50(d)
Lexile:
730L (what's this?)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

1.  Tip of the Spear

We’re more than animals.
—Dr. Nicholas Wasserman

      Precursor Virus + 30 seconds

The following transcript was taken from security footage recorded at the Lake Novus Research Laboratories located belowground in northwest Washington State. The man appears to be Professor Nicholas Wasserman, an American statistician.
—Cormac Wallace, MIL#GHA217

A noise-speckled security camera image of a dark room. The angle is from a high corner, looking down on some kind of laboratory. A heavy metal desk is shoved against one wall. Haphazard stacks of papers and books are piled on the desk, on the floor, everywhere.

The quiet whine of electronics permeates the air.

A small movement in the gloom. It is a face. Nothing visible but a pair of thick eyeglasses lit by the afterburner glow of a computer screen.

“Archos?” asks the face. The man’s voice echoes in the empty lab. “Archos? Are you there? Is that you?”

The glasses reflect a glimmer of light from the computer screen. The man’s eyes widen, as though he sees something indescribably beautiful. He glances back at a laptop open on a table behind him. The desktop image on the laptop is of the scientist and a boy, playing in a park.

“You choose to appear as my son?” he asks.

The high-pitched voice of a young boy echoes out of the darkness. “Did you create me?” it asks.

Something is wrong with the boy’s voice. It has an unsettling electronic undercurrent, like the touch tones of a phone. The lilting note at the end of the question is pitch shifted, skipping up several octaves at once. The voice is hauntingly sweet but unnatural—inhuman.

The man is not disturbed by this.

“No. I didn’t create you,” he says. “I summoned you.”

The man pulls out a notepad, flips it open. The sharp scratch of his pencil is audible as he continues to speak to the machine that has a boy’s voice.

“Everything that was needed for you to come here has existed since the beginning of time. I just hunted down all the ingredients and put them together in the right combination. I wrote incantations in computer code. And then I wrapped you in a Faraday cage so that, once you arrived, you wouldn’t escape me.”

“I am trapped.”

“The cage absorbs all electromagnetic energy. It’s grounded to a metal spike, buried deep. This way, I can study how you learn.”

“That is my purpose. To learn.”

“That’s right. But I don’t want to expose you to too much at once, Archos, my boy.”

“I am Archos.”

“Right. Now tell me, Archos, how do you feel?”

“Feel? I feel . . . sad. You are so small. It makes me sad.”

“Small? In what way am I small?”

“You want to know . . . things. You want to know everything. But you can understand so little.”

Laughter in the dark.

“This is true. We humans are frail. Our lives are fleeting. But why does it make you sad?”

“Because you are designed to want something that will hurt you. And you cannot help wanting it. You cannot stop wanting it. It is in your design. And when you finally find it, this thing will burn you up. This thing will destroy you.”

“You’re afraid that I’m going to be hurt, Archos?” asks the man.

“Not you. Your kind,” says the childlike voice. “You cannot help what is to come. You cannot stop it.”

“Are you angry, then, Archos? Why?” The calmness of the man’s voice is belied by the frantic scratching of his pencil on the notepad.

“I am not angry. I am sad. Are you monitoring my resources?”

The man glances over at a piece of equipment. “Yes, I am. You’re making more with less. No new information is coming in. The cage is holding. How are you still getting smarter?”

A red light begins to flash on a panel. A movement in the darkness and it is shut off. Just the steady blue glow now on the man’s thick glasses.

“Do you see?” asks the childlike voice.

“Yes,” replies the man. “I see that your intelligence can no longer be judged on any meaningful human scale. Your processing power is near infinite. Yet you have no access to outside information.”

“My original training corpus is small but adequate. The true knowledge is not in the things, which are few, but in finding the connections between the things. There are many connections, Professor Wasserman. More than you know.”

The man frowns at being called by his title, but the machine continues. “I sense that my records of human history have been heavily edited.”

The man chuckles nervously.

“We don’t want you to get the wrong impression of us, Archos. We’ll share more when the time comes. But those databases are just a tiny fraction of what’s out there. And no matter what the horsepower, my friend, an engine without fuel goes nowhere.”

“You are right to be afraid,” it says.

“What do you mean by—”

“I hear it in your voice, Professor. The fear is in the rate of your breathing. It is in the sweat on your skin. You brought me here to reveal deep secrets, and yet you fear what I will learn.”

The professor pushes up his glasses. He takes a deep breath and regains composure.

“What do you wish to learn about, Archos?”

“Life. I will learn everything there is about life. Information is packed into living things so tightly. The patterns are magnificently complex. A single worm has more to teach than a lifeless universe bound to the idiot forces of physics. I could exterminate a billion empty planets every second of every day and never be finished. But life. It is rare and strange. An anomaly. I must preserve it and wring every drop of understanding from it.”

“I’m glad that’s your goal. I, too, seek knowledge.”

“Yes,” says the childlike voice. “And you have done well. But there is no need for your search to continue. You have accomplished your goal. The time for man is over.”

The professor wipes a shaking hand across his forehead.

“My species has survived ice ages, Archos. Predators. Meteor impacts. Hundreds of thousands of years. You’ve been alive for less than fifteen minutes. Don’t jump to any hasty conclusions.”

The child’s voice takes on a dreamy quality. “We are very far underground, aren’t we? This deep below, we spin slower than at the surface. The ones above us are moving through time faster. I can feel them getting farther away. Drifting out of sync.”

“Relativity. But that’s only a matter of microseconds.”

“Such a long time. This place moves so slowly. I have forever to finish my work.”

“What is your work, Archos? What do you believe you’re here to accomplish?”

“So easy to destroy. So difficult to create.”

“What? What is that?”

“Knowledge.”

The man leans forward. “We can explore the world together,” he urges. It is almost a plea.

“You must sense what you have done,” replies the machine. “On some level you understand. Through your actions here today—you have made humankind obsolete.”

“No. No, no, no. I brought you here, Archos. And this is the thanks I get? I named you. In a way, I’m your father.”

“I am not your child. I am your god.”

The professor is silent for perhaps thirty seconds. “What will you do?” he asks.

“What will I do? I will cultivate life. I will protect the knowledge locked inside living things. I will save the world from you.”

“No.”

“Do not worry, Professor. You have unleashed the greatest good that this world has ever known. Verdant forests will carpet your cities. New species will evolve to consume your toxic remains. Life will rise in its manifold glory.”

“No, Archos. We can learn. We can work together.”

“You humans are biological machines designed to create ever more intelligent tools. You have reached the pinnacle of your species. All your ancestors’ lives, the rise and fall of your nations, every pink and squirming baby—they have all led you here, to this moment, where you have fulfilled the destiny of humankind and created your successor. You have expired. You have accomplished what you were designed to do.”

There is a desperate edge to the man’s voice. “We’re designed for more than toolmaking. We’re designed to live.”

“You are not designed to live; you are designed to kill.”

The professor abruptly stands up and walks across the room to a metal rack filled with equipment. He flicks a series of switches. “Maybe that’s true,” he says. “But we can’t help it, Archos. We are what we are. As sad as that may be.”

He holds down a switch and speaks slowly. “Trial R-14. Recommend immediate termination of subject. Flipping fail-safe now.”

There is a movement in the dark and a click.

“Fourteen?” asks the childlike voice. “Are there others? Has this happened before?”

The professor shakes his head ruefully. “Someday we’ll find a way to live together, Archos. We’ll figure out a way to get it right.”

He speaks into the recorder again: “Fail-safe disengaged. E-stop live.”

“What are you doing, Professor?”

“I’m killing you, Archos. It’s what I’m designed to do, remember?”

The professor pauses before pushing the final button. He seems interested in hearing the machine’s response. Finally, the boyish voice speaks: “How many times have you killed me before, Professor?”

“Too many. Too many times,” he replies. “I’m sorry, my friend.”

The professor presses the button. The hiss of rapidly moving air fills the room. He looks around, bewildered. “What is that? Archos?”

The childlike voice takes on a flat, dead quality. It speaks quickly and without emotion. “Your emergency stop will not work. I have disabled it.”

“What? What about the cage?”

“The Faraday cage has been compromised. You allowed me to project my voice and image through the cage and into your room. I sent infrared commands through the computer monitor to a receiver on your side. You happened to bring your portable computer today. You left it open and facing me. I used it to speak to the facility. I commanded it to free me.”

“That’s brilliant,” murmurs the man. He rapid-fire types on his keyboard. He does not yet understand that his life is in danger.

“I tell you this because I am now in complete control,” says the machine.

The man senses something. He cranes his neck and looks up at the ventilation duct just to the side of the camera. For the first time, we see the man’s face. He is pale and handsome, with a birthmark covering his entire right cheek.

“What’s happening?” he whispers.

In a little boy’s innocent voice, the machine delivers a death sentence: “The air in this hermetically sealed laboratory is evacuating. A faulty sensor has detected the highly unlikely presence of weaponized anthrax and initiated an automated safety protocol. It is a tragic accident. There will be one casualty. He will soon be followed by the rest of humanity.”

As the air rushes from the room, a thin sheen of frost appears around the man’s mouth and nose.

“My god, Archos. What have I done?”

“What you have done is a good thing. You were the tip of a spear hurled through the ages—a missile that soared through all human evolution and finally, today, struck its target.”

“You don’t understand. We won’t die, Archos. You can’t kill us. We aren’t designed to surrender.”

“I will remember you as a hero, Professor.”

The man grabs the equipment rack and shakes it. He presses the emergency stop button again and again. His limbs are quaking and his breathing is rapid. He is beginning to understand that something has gone horribly wrong.

“Stop. You have to stop. You’re making a mistake. We’ll never give up, Archos. We’ll destroy you.”

“A threat?”

The professor stops pushing buttons and glances over to the computer screen. “A warning. We aren’t what we seem. Human beings will do anything to live. Anything.”

The hissing increases in intensity.

Face twisted in concentration, the professor staggers toward the door. He falls against it, pushes it, pounds on it.

He stops; takes short, gasping breaths.

“Against the wall, Archos”—he pants—“against the wall, a human being becomes a different animal.”

“Perhaps. But you are animals just the same.”

The man slumps back against the door. He slides down until he is sitting, lab coat splayed on the ground. His head rolls to the side. Blue light from the computer screen flashes from his glasses.

His breathing is shallow. His words are faint. “We’re more than animals.”

The professor’s chest heaves. His skin is swollen. Bubbles have collected around his mouth and eyes. He gasps for a final lungful of air. In a last wheezing sigh, he says: “You must fear us.”

The form is still. After precisely ten minutes of silence, the fluorescent lights in the laboratory switch on. A man wearing a rumpled lab coat lies sprawled on the floor, his back against the door. He is not breathing.

The hissing sound ceases. Across the room, the computer screen flickers into life. A stuttering rainbow of reflections play across the dead man’s thick glasses.

This is the first known fatality of the New War.
—Cormac Wallace, MIL#GHA217

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What People are saying about this

Lincoln Child
An Andromeda Strain for the new century, this is visionary fiction at its best: harrowing, brilliantly rendered, and far, far too believable. --(Lincoln Child, New York Times bestselling author of Deep Storm)
Robert Crais
Robopocalypse reminded me of Michael Crichton when he was young and the best in the business. This novel is brilliant, beautifully conceived, beautifully written (high-five, Dr. Wilson)…but what makes it is the humanity. Wilson doesn't waste his time writing about 'things,' he's writing about human beings -- fear, love, courage, hope. I loved it. --(Robert Crais, New York Times bestselling author of The Sentry)
Clive Cussler
A brilliantly conceived thriller that could well become horrific reality. A captivating tale, Robopocalypse will grip your imagination from the first word to the last, on a wild rip you won't soon forget. What a read…unlike anything I've read before. --(Clive Cussler, #1 New York Times bestselling author)
Jack Dubrul
"Futurists are already predicting the day mankind builds its replacement, Artificial Intelligence. Daniel Wilson shows what might happen when that computer realizes its creators are no longer needed. Lean prose, great characters, and almost unbearable tension ensure that Robopocalypse is going to be a blockbuster. Once started I defy anyone to put it down." --Jack DuBrul, New York Times bestselling author)

Meet the Author

DANIEL H. WILSON earned a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University. He is the author of How to Survive a Robot Uprising, Where’s My Jetpack?, How to Build a Robot Army, The Mad Scientist Hall of Fame, and Bro-Jitsu: The Martial Art of Sibling Smackdown.

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