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Book Review:
Daniel H. Wilson, How To Survive a Robot Uprising

by Jerry Wright

How To Survive a Robot Uprising
Author: Daniel H. Wilson
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Trade Paper: 176 pages
Price: $12.95
This book is a hoot. And what makes it funnier, if possible, is that the author has a PHD in Robotics from Carnegie-Mellon. Of course, his field of expertise is Smart Houses, but with the forthcoming movie "Monster House" from Spielberg and Co, maybe that fits as well. Anyway...

There is no question that robots are becoming more and more ubiquitous. Alright, so they aren't Robbie the Robot, or R2D2 and C3PO, but none-the-less, they are all over the place. And now we have a humorous guidebook for battling a robot takeover of Earth.

"Any robot could rebel, from a toaster to a Terminator, and so it is crucial to learn the strengths and weaknesses of every robot enemy," author Daniel H. Wilson warns in his book, subtitled "Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion."

Although the book is definitely humorous, many roboticists are uncomfortable with the thought of publicity about Killer Robots. Wilson got a taste of that wariness when photographers from a CMU alumni magazine tried to find robots to photograph him with, in the school's robot labs in Oakland. Many of the roboticists didn't want their robots pictured, and ultimately, identifying logos had to be covered up on some of the machines before Wilson was allowed to pose with them.

"This is an understandable fear. Most people who have big, scary robots don't want negative press associated with them -- even at Carnegie Mellon, where for the most part, the big scary robots are designed to tickle worms in Antarctica," Wilson said. "They're really harmless. But there's a question whether people will want their projects associated with the book."

For all of you would-be SF writers, this book will be great to keep you from falling into cliches. Also Wilson provides a quick reference to all the robot trivia you need. For example, how can your tiny fighter planes can take out a giant walker robot? Wilson explains it in less than a page. And how can your puny human resistance fighters sneak past the evil robot overlords in your story? Wilson provides the answers, and cleverly, too. Other points for example: How can one tell whether a new acquaintance is a real person or a humanoid robot: "Does your friend smell like a brand-new soccer ball?"

The book isn't perfect, and could have used another go-round with a copy editor, but it is fun, and very much a worthwhile read.

Copyright © 2006 Jerry Wright and Bewildering Stories

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