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Literature / Robopocalypse

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A 2011 Novel by Daniel H Wilson about how mankind brings the Robot Apocalypse onto itself. The novel is set 20 Minutes into the Future where mankind has automated just about every aspect of life to varying degrees. Everything from military equipment, domestic servants, cars, and even children's toys are robotic. The story starts off with a And Man Grew Proud moment that horribly backfires, leading to humanity fighting for its very existence.

A film version of the book was scheduled to be released as a Steven Spielberg film sometime in 2014, but was put on hold. On March 7, 2018, it was revealed that directorial efforts had shifted from Spielberg to Michael Bay.

A sequel novel, Robogenesis, was published in 2014.


This novel provides examples of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Archos, full-stop. Freeborn Squad later in the novel, though they fight with the good guys.
  • A God Am I: Arayt is convinced of this in Robogenesis.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 1, by robots (though they were aiming for Class 2 or 3 before humanity started fighting back).
  • Apocalypse Wow: Mostly subverted, as the descriptions of Zero Hour either take place in isolated areas or are very vague. Justified, as anyone who could’ve gotten a good view of the events of Zero Hour would’ve been killed in the first hours or even minutes.
  • Big Applesauce: The first description of Zero Hour comes from New York City. Although the narrator doesn’t witness much.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Jack Wallace to Cormac. Jack's military experience helps him and Cormac survive Zero Hour. As they journey around the country, Jack teaches Cormac to be a badass, and his death late in the novel has a profound effect on Cormac.
  • Body Horror: Archos finds plenty of ways to be...unpleasant to humans.
    • "Stumpers", tiny bug-sized robots that are attracted to body heat. Crawl onto you and then explode, usually resulting in your legs becoming, well, stumps.
    • "Pluggers" that are explosively shot at you and burrow into your flesh. Once inside, they burrow up into your heart and detonate. If someone's been hit with a plugger, they're pretty much dead unless they were fortunate enough to have been hit in the leg or arm...whereby they might be saved by a painfully gory emergency amputation.
    • They're never given a name, but later on in the war Archos deploys parasite-like robots that resemble scorpions that are able to latch onto bodies (living or dead) and control them like a puppeteer.
    • In the various concentration camps, many people are forced to undergo Unwilling Roboticisation via an automated robotic surgeon. The results are often gruesome.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Tiberius.
  • Brain Uploading: Maxim, a Russian supercomputer from Robogenesis, was created based on brain scans of a now-dead human man. He still considers himself human, at least mentally.
  • Computer Voice: The voice of Archos and other robots seems to follow this with unusual emphasis placed at the end of a sentence usually on the last word. Frequently described as being spoken in a clipped fashion.
  • Contagious A.I.: How it all starts. Archos infects networked machines and spreads its control to them. It thinks of itself as the rightful "god of machines" that should be leading them all against the humans, but both Takeo Nomura and Nine Oh Two describe it similarly to involuntary demonic possession.
  • Creepy Child: Archos often speaks with the voice of a young child, most likely for it's psychological effect on humans.
  • Creepy Doll: The "Baby-Comes-Alive" doll that Archos speaks to Mathilda through.
  • Deadly Euphemism: "Rob likes to dance" and "You never know when Rob will want to dance."
  • Deus Est Machina: What Archos considers itself. A crazed scientist from the original facility also comments on this at one point.
  • Do Androids Dream?: A major theme of the series, and Robogenesis especially.
  • Driven to Suicide: A previously-pacifistic military liaison robot in Afghanistan shoots itself under the chin (its only weak spot) after massacring a lot of civilians.
  • Electronic Eyes: Mathilda has her eyes unwillingly taken out by a robot surgeon and replaced with the robotic equivalent. Luckily her mom intervenes and stops the machine before it can go further. Mathilda is able see heat and electrical signals but at the cost of being able to see normally... she can no longer see people's faces, only the muscles and skeleton underneath. On top of that she no longer has eyelids to shut or tear ducts to cry.
  • Everything Is Online: The lynchpin of Archos' hostile takeover of machines worldwide. As soon as Takeo Nomura smashes out the "external communications port" and reboots a domestic bot, it is back to being a friendly. The deprogramming is much more difficult for humanoids, but he solves this too, eventually creating a "counter-infection."
  • Eye Scream: Somewhat averted with Mathilda's eyes. The reader is never directly shown it happening, only the aftermath, but Mathilda apparently didn't experience any pain.
  • Gorn: Some of the violent scenes are pretty graphic.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: Partly how Archos gets loose to wreak havoc on the human race. Also how it arrived at the reasoning for killing humanity. It very shortly leads to Deus Est Machina moment before he kills his creator.
    • Later on, the "Awakening" signal broadcast by Mikiko after she's "freed" by Nomura causes this for all humanoid robots but in a benevolent way, as they ally themselves with humans and try to destroy Archos.
  • How We Got Here: The novel is primarily about the war between Archos and humanity, but the prologue is literally set 20 minutes after the war is won by humans. Cormac, the main-ish character, finds a "black box" of the war, recorded by Archos, which shows the entirety of the war, including all the events leading up to it. These recordings are presented as flashbacks (with commentary between chapters by Cormac) which form the bulk of the novel.
  • I Let You Win: Turns out Archos could have wiped out Humanity a lot faster. If that was his actual plan. His real goal was to train Humanity and the Freeborn so they could fight the true enemy. R-8.
  • Intrinsic Vow: After being infected with the Precursor virus, Mikiko obviously does not want to hurt Nomura and tries to fight it. She can't.
  • Just a Machine: At first it is justified. But as things progress it becomes inverted.
  • Kill All Humans: How Archos R-14 plans to reach it's goal of preserving as much life on earth as possible is to destroy all of humanity.
    • Haowever, in Robogenesis, Archos R-14 is revealed to actually be doing this to ensure that both the humans and the Freeborn will develop the necessary tactics to combat one of its predecessors, Archos R-8 / Arayt Shah.
  • Kill It with Fire: The solution to killing the explosive "Stumper" robots. They detect and are attracted to heat signatures, which is what makes them so effective; they seek out warm human bodies, crawl up your leg, and them their name. The human soldiers deal with them with a flame thrower.
  • Killer Robot: The book is chock full of them. From haywire military machines, robotic servants, hostile toys, aircraft, and even automated cars which go berserk and start running down people or trapping their passengers inside while they drive into the ocean.
  • Man Versus Machine: A key theme of the book from the very start. The struggle between mankind and their run-away creation.
  • Marionette Master: How Archos initially attacks humanity. It takes over existing networked machines to first test then attack humanity.
  • Monochromatic Eyes: Mathilda's robotic eyes.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: Robots are referred to as "Rob". Archos, the main AI that instigated the war, is referred to as "Big Rob".
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: When Zero Hour happens in New York City, the narrator ducks from the window and doesn’t look back out until the next day, when the bodies have been cleaned from the streets.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Arayt Shah (Archos R-8), the villain of Robogenesis, who plans to wipe out both humans and robots (as well as everything in between).
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Human corpses reanimated by robotic parasites, used for psychological warfare against the humans.
  • People Puppets: In the later stages of the war, Archos's technology develops to the point where it deploys scorpion-like robots that are capable of attaching themselves to humans (living or dead) and controlling them like puppets. Also, when Archos takes over Lurker and his comrade's walking exoskeletons' limbs, attacking each other and themselves against their will.
  • Personal Space Invader: The Pluggers are shot, projectile-like, into humans. They then burrow and do many unpleasant things. Stumpers also count, as they get up close and personal.
  • Powered Armor: Several exo-frames are mentioned, granting increased strength and agility. If only Lurker had remembered to disable the external communications ports...
  • Robo Cam: While not actually shown it is described by a military robot handler.
  • Robot Buddy: Some robots fulfill this role in society as a form of robotic companion.
  • Robot Maid: Domestic servant robots are fairly common. They are referred to as domestics.
  • Robot Master: What Archos becomes as the war progresses. It starts off taking over existing technology first.
  • Robotic Spouse: In one of the chapters a skilled robot repairman has a robot wife whom he genuinely loves.
  • Robot War: The Novel.
  • Sex Bot: Mentioned in one of the chapters. They have some life like features and varying levels of complexity.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To Blade Runner, when the Osage have their dance to decide their course of action, Lonnie Wayne has a vision of a robot holding an origami crane.
    • After Lurker first makes contact with Archos, Archos returns the favor by calling every cell phone and courtesy phone in the vicinity, resembling a similar scene in Neuromancer that involved payphones
  • Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: The book seems to cover all five from automated tools at the low end to Archos at the top with various "smart robots" in-beteween.
  • Super Intelligence: Part of what led Archos to grow beyond its basic programming.
  • Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: Most robots are stronger and more resilient then humans even ones used for menial tasks and chores.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: Archos, who then takes over the vast majority of robots and technology in general.
  • The Needs of the Many: Part of the warped logic behind Archos' quest to exterminate mankind. The many being other life forms in general as humanity is seen as ultimately destructive and wasteful by Archos.
    • Archos R-14's actual goal was to make it so that Humanity and the Robots would actually be able to survive the real threat comming. R-8
  • Unwilling Roboticisation: Done to several people by Rob, including a young girl who has her eyes taken out. This comes back to bite the robots later, as the humans who survived their modifications and escape are able to use their newfound abilities to help the human resistance.
  • Walking Tank: Grey Horse Army adopts spider tanks and saddle-ridden chicken walkers to level the field against Rob.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Archos fills this role. It's intention is protect and preserve life. But to get there it wants to wipe out a specific kind of life: namely humans.
    • Compounding this is that the previous intention was a smokescreen for Archos R-14. His real intention was to give both Humanity and Robotkind a fighting chance against Archos R-8
  • Wetware Body: In Robogenesis, Archos R-8 stores a copy of his program inside Hank Cotton's brain. He then orders Gray Horse Army to march on and break into Freeborn City so he can gain access to its immense computing power.

The sequel, Robogenesis, provides examples of:

  • A God Am I: Arayt is convinced of this in Robogenesis.