“Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.” – Vernor Vinge
Daniel H. Wilson’s hugely entertaining sci-fi thriller Robopocalypse uses the above quote from technological singularity enthusiast Vinge as a jumping off point to imagine a near-ish future war in which the computer enhanced machines that provide such convenience and comfort to humans (everything from cars and elevators to “Big Happy” domestic humanistic robots) suddenly and without warning fall under the control of a hyper-aware artificial intelligence and methodically, efficiently, and very successfully begin to destroy humankind. Told in a series of testimonials (similar to the structure used in Max Brooks' great World War Z, which tells the story of the great Zombie War) that all work to piece together an oral history of “Zero Hour” and the ensuing worldwide chaos it creates, Robopocalypse is a richly imagined page-turner, and all the better for the plausibility that is so carefully crafted by the author. Wilson has a Ph.D in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, and his technical understanding clearly informs the book, but as with all great sci-fi, it is the humanity infused into the story that makes it so memorable. For me, it was one of those novels that I could easily envision a blockbuster movie being made from, and obviously I wasn’t alone in that opinion, as DreamWorks quickly acquired the film rights to the story and a movie version is already in production with none other than Steven Spielberg directing!