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BOOK REVIEW: Robot Overlords by Mark Stay

| 20 February 2015 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Robot Overlords by Mark Stay

Gollancz
February 2015
Paperback, $19.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

4/10

24764711

Tie-in novel to a brilliant British film starring Gillian Anderson, Ben Kingsley and Callan McAuliffe.
To find his father, one boy must defy an empire…

Three years ago, Earth was conquered by a force of robots from a distant world. They have one rule:

STAY IN YOUR HOMES

Step outside and you get one warning before you’re vaporised by a massive robot Sentry, or a crawling Sniper, or a flying Drone. That’s if the vast Cube doesn’t incinerate you first.
But Sean Flynn is convinced that his father – an RAF pilot who fought in the war – is still alive. And when he and his gang figure out a way to break the robots’ curfew, they begin an adventure that will pit them against the might of the ROBOT OVERLORDS.

 

 

There’s a certain trepidation one experiences when they realise the book they were so excited about follows that less explored, often poorly done, movie-to-book path.

“The book was better than the movie.” We’ve all said that or had someone say it to us, and usually it’s true. But how does that factor in when the book would never have existed without the movie?

In this specific situation, the novelisation was written by one of the script writers for the movie, so you get the feeling he had more of an investment in the story than an external person hired to do the job.

But… I just didn’t feel it.

 

This story did have its positives: 

– The dynamic between the teenage characters was really enjoyable.

– Some humorous scenes.

– Robots!

– The title of the book.

 

But there were so many things that stuck out:

– Quite a few typos or missing words.

– It was “dedicated” third person, past tense. But every so often there was an “us” in the narrative. There was also a fair bit of hopping to the thoughts of other characters while we were supposed to be reading from the point of view of one character in particular.

– Quite a few continuity errors.

Kate was in a blanket, and three pages later she kicked off her sleeping bag.

Kate was in a locked room, she tried the windows to see if she might escape that way, but they were locked. A little later, someone unlocks the door, talks to her for a while, she gets upset, goes to the window and opens it for some fresh air.

Taking the implants out has to be done carefully, like “Operation” in that, if you touch the sides, you’re out (except this one would end in a “kaboom”). But, when putting the implant in, you can just slide it back in, by yourself, without so much as a clear view of the thing?

– Passive descriptions that make no sense when you stop and think about them:

A noise so loud, sudden and close that it made Kate’s head flinch, blasted through the entire commune.

Wayne laughed. A throaty cackle that once used to smoke a pack a day.

– LAZY story telling in which the characters aren’t just oblivious to what’s happening around them, but actively decide to not think about it, even when there’s a good chance it’s someone they love involved. This happened in two major situations in the book, and it was almost as though the author couldn’t be bothered working up more complex emotions for the characters. It’s easier to deal with these things when it’s up to the actors to show the emotions in their face, rather than having to describe it for readers.
These situations could most assuredly been handled better, had the characters acknowledged what was going on, and forced themselves back to the job at hand.

– The reveal of the secret: (Person 1) is going to tell (Person 2) this (SHOCKING SECRET). We’re not present for the reveal to (Person 2), but later we hear that (Person 2) told (Person 3) and (Person 4), and now we get to finally hear it, along with (Person 5) and (Person 6), but it was actually a “secret” that we had worked out early in the book.

– The kids were well developed and easy to read, but the adults were all idiots and incredibly immature.

 

The first third of the book disappears in no time as it pulls the reader in, but by the time they reach the last third they might find themselves thinking it’s just more of the same. There’s nothing particularly stand-out about this novel, nothing that differentiates it that much from, say, Transformers, but it was a bit of fun.

‘Came here on a school trip just before the war,’ he said. ‘Did you know that most people think the first steam train was Stephenson’s Rocket? But they’re wrong. A man called Richard Trevithick built a locomotive in 1804.’
‘Oh yeah, I heard about that,’ said Nathan. ‘That was just before the boring kid who wouldn’t shut up about trains was shoved into a bin head first, right?’
Connor lashed out, trying to kick Nathan in the shin, but the bigger boy dodged him. ‘Arse biscuit!’ Connor said, using the worst combination of words he could come up with. It wasn’t as insulting as he would have liked, but at least it left Nathan with a puzzled expression on his face.

‘We have to stick together,’ Connor told them. ‘That’s how it works, in the stories. We’re like the Three Musketeers, or the Famous Five.’
‘Only there’s four of us,’ said Alex.
‘Okay, we’re like the Famous Five without the dog,’ Connor snapped.
He held his clenched fist forward.
‘What’s that?’ Alex asked.
‘We bump fists, y’know, like a team.’

The short story at the end did offer up some laughs, and some interesting insight into the Mediators, but not enough to really change my mind.

‘We have further concerns,’ the voice said. ‘The smaller models-‘
‘Babies,’ Alfie corrected it. ‘We call them babies.’
‘These babies are fragile and their mobility is limited. Their use in the field will be significantly constrained by these shortcomings.’
‘Just make ’em bigger.’
An image flashed up on one of the walls. A baby robot. It suddenly warped in size.
‘No, no,’ Alfie waved his hands at the image. ‘Not some giant baby. That’s even worse. Nah, make it like me. My size.’

 

All in all, it was a fun read, a little slow towards the end, but entertaining enough… so long as you don’t look too closely at the plot holes.

 

Stephanie O’Connell

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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