“Robogenesis” by Daniel H. Wilson (Doubleday, 352 pages, in stores Tuesday)
Nearly two centuries ago, the novel “Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus” was first published, expressing in fiction the fear that a scientist’s creation could rise up against him. It was a terrifying prospect that has been brought up again and again in popular media, legislative process and the occasional laboratory explosion.
Daniel H. Wilson, a native of Tulsa with a Ph.D. in robotics, captured the concept yet again in his bestselling novel, “Robopocalypse,” about a war between humanity and an artificial intelligence. Known as Archos R-14, the AI infected the world’s computers and machines and wiped out a large portion of the human race before the Gray Horse Army, arising from the Osage Nation in Oklahoma, managed to track it down in the frozen wastes of Alaska and destroy it.
Now Wilson has written a sequel — or, perhaps we should say, the second in what may be a series — titled “Robogenesis.”
It picks up where “Robopocalypse” left off, with the destruction of Archos R-14 in Alaska. But is Archos R-14 really gone for good?
Wilson lets us know that Archos R-14 might have been defeated, but it has not been exterminated — which is one of the reasons why “Robogenesis” would appear to be the second in a series, or at least a trilogy, and not just another sequel.
But Archos R-14 isn’t what “Robogenesis” is about. Humanity, what’s left of it, has a new nemesis: Arayt Shah. That is the name taken by Archos R-8, a predecessor of Archos R-14 that has now risen in its place to destroy all life on the planet.
And life itself is being transformed. Characters familiar from “Robopocalypse” — Lark Iron Cloud, Mathilda Perez, Cormac Wallace and others — return to what they believe to be a post-war world only to find that the fighting and dying still haven’t ended.
Arayt Shah takes over the mind of Hank Cotton, a soldier in the Gray Horse Army, who eventually takes command of the Osage Nation’s stronghold.
Meanwhile, in the ruins of New York City, Mathilda loses her brother, Nolan Perez, to the forces of the Tribe, a group of survivors led by Felix Morales — who is also controlled by Arayt Shah.
Out west at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado are “freeborn” robots, freed from the control of Archos R-14 in “Robopocalypse” by the work of a genius in Japan and his creation. These liberated robots have set up their own community, and are soon targeted by the the Arayt Shah-run Tribe and Gray Horse Army for annihilation or assimilation.
It is up to Parez, Iron Cloud, Wallace and others to fight to save both humanity and the freeborn robots, and that’s easier said than done.
Wilson’s style is unusual for a novel. Each character tells his or her own story, in present tense, with introductory passages presented by Arayt Shah itself. This technique was used in similar fashion in “Robopocalypse,” to great effect.