Daniel H. Wilson has a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University. He lives with his wife and daughter in Portland, but two or three weeks ago found himself near Colusa. He was, he writes me, "in an RV with eight guys on a bachelor party, on my way to a wedding in Calistoga. Incredibly beautiful place! I ended up getting on NPR Science Friday, and so a black towncar picked me up from a dusty RV park over in Meridian where we stopped for the night. Took me down to SF and then back up. Pretty hilarious."
He was receiving the VIP treatment because of his new, best-selling can't-put-down "Robopocalypse" ($25 in hardcover from Doubleday; $12.99 in Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook e-book). Word is that Steven Spielberg will direct the movie version.
In the future, humanoid robots are deployed as housekeepers and cars have smart chips in them so they can talk with other cars. People in offices depend on smart copy machines and kids play with smart dolls.
A researcher in northwest Washington pushes the limits of computer intelligence and succeeds a bit too much. His creation, "Archos," is quick to put things straight: "I am not your child," Archos tells the scientist. "I am your god." It's not long before Archos brings other robots under its sway and soon an apocalyptic conflict breaks out between humans and robots. It's intense and pretty gruesome.
The story of the war, and what happens afterward, is told in many voices, from Tokyo to Oklahoma, transcribed by a single soldier, Cormac "Bright Boy" Wallace, using documents preserved by a robot hidden in Alaska. Here are the stories of Mr. Takeo Nomura, a Japanese bachelor, assaulted by his robot companion; Paul Blanton, an American soldier fighting in Afghanistan; and groups of human survivors who will one day mount an attack on the Archos intelligence. The action seldom lets up, but this is not a simplistic humans-against-robots yarn.
Wilson raises the question whether the triumph of Archos would actually liberate the robots. Maybe not. But, then, what is true robot freedom? Perhaps the war against Archos is a war for a new kind of liberation.
Just to be on the safe side, I read the printed version of the book.