ExtinctionExtinction by Mark Alpert

After reading Robopocalypse last summer, I suspected Extinction might be too similar, too soon. It proved to be quite different: rather than an anthology of vignettes connected by a common theme of a robot uprising, Extinction focuses on fewer characters and a more subtle takeover. However, those characters prove to be unnecessarily dense in what they bring to the story. Here's our cast:

  • A man with a Terminator-style prosthetic arm that can be swapped out for a machine gun.
  • A scientist intent on achieving immortality by uploading his memories to a computer.
  • An NSA agent who is blind except when wearing special glasses that can beam images, including in the infrared spectrum, directly to her brain.
  • A sentient computer that can assimilate humans into its network through a crude lobotomization process.
  • A hacker working for WikiLeaks.

Any one of those gimmicks would be enough to tell a tale, but Alpert crams them all into one book. He seems so excited by each character that, especially in the beginning, he alternates among the various points of view regularly, with some chapters lasting only as long as two paragraphs.

Although the story is reasonably plotted and paced, there are other aspects of its recounting that seem a bit forced. Some of the character development didn't strike me as natural, with dialogue-driven flashbacks hammering us over the head with a protagonist's motivations. Some of the American military interactions also didn't strike me quite right, though I confess I have no professional background or research to suggest it should be otherwise. Though the hacker character? The most hacking we see her do is looking for a sticky note with a computer's login password.

Extinction offered a unique take on the Singularity, one in which a sentient computer program, one somewhat human in its emotions yet Borg-like in its capabilities, tries to invoke its own Judgment Day. But the overall theme is general enough that there are better alternatives to this robot apocalypse.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars