Monday, July 02, 2012

Monday Malarkey - Our lives in boxes and a mini-review of Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

This is a terrible photo but I thought it was just so darned cute. Fiona is in a box full of flattened boxes, in the photo above. She thinks it's her throne-slash-scratching-pad-deluxe.

I'm spending most of my days packing, now, but the usual things are still happening. I'm reading, of course, just sloooowly. After last week's Children's Day fun (reading four books in a single day with breaks to write about them is like permission to regress: awesome), I finished one book over the weekend. We'll get to that in a minute because, speaking of Children's Day, look at this very cool photo of a soldier reading I Need My Monster to his child via Skype! I Need My Monster was my favorite of the books I reviewed, last week.

Back to the book I finished over the weekend:

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson is so action-packed that it's clear why the movie rights were sold before the book had even been released (to be directed by Steven Spielberg). The story of a worldwide robot war told in retrospect and how the humans overcame the odds, Robopocalypse is narrated by one of the people who went on a mission to save the world from the evil computer Archos. By narrated, I mean the same person introduces each chapter and occasionally a chapter is written from his perspective, but it's also told using the voices of several characters who survived the robot wars as well as presumed viewpoints of some of the dead whose accounts can be described using CCTV footage and overheard witness accounts. The viewpoints alternate.

While flawed in the sense that most of the chapters begin as a past-tense personal account and then shift to first-person present narrative (which means many of the chapters sound like they've been written by the same person, with only vague differences in style), I was in need of a fast-paced read and Robopocalypse perfectly fit the bill. My only big complaint was the strong rural accents of many of the Oklahomans.

I mentioned that I was perplexed by the hick accents in Robopocalypse on Twitter and the author responded that perhaps I wouldn't be baffled if I'd grown up where he did. I told him where I'm from (just outside the Osage Nation, where the Oklahoma scenes take place) and I think he was a little stunned. My hometown was, however, heavily populated by people who were transferred in from the Midwest, at least during my youth, and strong rural accents were rare. Even amongst those I'd encountered, I don't think I came across anything quite so dramatic. The author told me he's from Tulsa "with a heavy dollop of Wagoner and Sallisaw," and, "I was channeling my own grandfather's voice through Lonnie Wayne." So, basically, I had called his grandfather a hick. Not that we don't have a few hicks in our extended family, but I need to learn to screen my tweets better.

At any rate, I still wish the author hadn't chosen to give a major character and quite a few others that heavy rural accent. I'm often frustrated by the way Oklahomans are portrayed (generally with a strong redneck bent, particularly in cinema) when most of the people I've encountered in Oklahoma have a soft Southern accent, at best, (think James Garner) and often a non-accent akin to that in the Midwest -- close to dictionary pronunciation. But, the book is great entertainment. I just tried to barrel through the heavily-accented scenes.

What I found most impressive was the technical aspect of the book. The author has degrees from the University of Tulsa and Carnegie Mellon in robotics (which I assume means he's a mechanical engineer; my sis-in-law, a mechanical engineer, did some robotics work in school). I always love reading a book written by an engineer because I'm comfortable with the way engineers speak. Also, Mathilda is an awesome character.

The movie is, unfortunately, going to be entirely filmed in Montreal, Canada. I was really hoping at least the Utica Square Mall scene would be filmed in Tulsa. It's scheduled for release in 2014. The book is pretty violent but it's about war so you have to expect that. I'd anticipate a lot of blood and screaming in the movie.

Books that walked in, this past week:

  • The Stars Shine Bright by Sibella Giorello - I keep swearing I'm not going to do any more tours but I love Sibella Giorello's mystery series so I signed up for a tour. The book just arrived from Thomas Nelson.
  • This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley - purchased at Off Square Books in Oxford, MS on Saturday (where we dashed up to look at an apartment for Kiddo).
  • Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles - freebie from Off Square Books, where they let you pick one of their old ARCs to take home with a $10 purchase.
  • Kaytek the Wizard by Janusz Korczak - Unsolicited book from Penlight Publications, for review.

And, that leads to what I'm currently reading:

I have some other in-progress books set aside but right now my focus is on two of the new arrivals. This Year You Write Your Novel is just 103 pages and I'm on about page 50-something. It's a very succinct book about what's important to know if you want to write a novel in a year, starting right now. It's extremely informative and nicely boils down the bare bones necessary to writing. Also, Mosley is superb at giving you a verbal kick in the pants. I'm enjoying This Year You Write Your Novel. I've completed several novels but haven't written fiction regularly in years so it's providing an excellent refresher course.

Kaytek the Wizard has a Harry-Potterish cover but it was written in 1933 and is quite different from today's fantasy novels. Kaytek is a young boy who wants to become a wizard and by concentrating on what he wants to happen, eventually succeeds. But, he's young and impulsive and most of his spell-casting causes chaos. Will Kaytek learn to control his powers and use them only for good?

I'm close to halfway into Kaytek the Wizard. I was intrigued when I read about the author, who ran an orphanage and chose to accompany his orphans to Treblinka concentration camp, where he died with them during WWII. Also, it was kind of cool to get a parcel with stickers saying it had originated in Jerusalem. Kaytek doesn't have the advantage of a handy school for wizards, but occasionally he'll get a helping hand (or a swift kick) from some invisible source.

Last but not least is an Izzy photo. Imagine wider eyes and the ears completely flat against her head (sheer terror, in other words) and you'll know what I see when I plop her post-medicine kitty treats into a bowl. Isabel is so smart that I have to change where I dose her and how, constantly. Otherwise, I'd never be able to catch her. She pretty much spit her entire morning dose onto my hand, today, so she'll be wrapped in a towel for tonight's medicine. Wrapping her up gives me just a tad more control.

Okay, back to packing. My life is just a series of bags and boxes, right now. What kind of malarkey is going on in your world?

©2012 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. I didn't think Robopocalypse was for me but you've made it sound tempting.

    Good luck with the packing!

    1. It's a really fun ride, Kathy, and definitely fast-paced enough for you. I will say, though, that I had to be in the right mood for it. My copy is an ARC and last year I tried to read it when it arrived. Couldn't get into it at all. When I noticed the book had recently been released in paperback, I decided to give it another go. It was great timing, just what I needed.


  2. Your cats need crowns, to go with their box palaces.

    1. Probably so. But, they're very modest princesses (who don't like it when I stick things on their heads). :)

  3. Ooooh…you know before this review, I really didn't have much of a desire to read Robopocallypse at all…but now it's starting to sound pretty darn good! I'm always perplexed by the accents that we're given down here too. The thing I hate most about how southerner's are portrayed is that when we're given accents in books, we're also given this air of ignorance. Kind of drives me nuts.

    Also wanted to mention that I don't think that's a horrible picture of Fiona at all :) I think it's quite a good picture of her and it's ADORABLE :D Just like her owner :)

    1. Chris,

      Robopocalypse is not fine literature but it's a fun read if you're just in a mood for action. I'm thinking I need to find my copy of I, Robot to see how they compare. Some folks at Amazon thought Robo was "a bit of a rip-off" and/or hack writing made to be turned into a movie. It may well be both, but I wanted to be swept away into a fast-paced world and it was right for the moment.

      As to the accents . . . sigh. That is so annoying. I used to not know the difference between a genuine Southern accent and one that was completely guess-work (and, yes, that air of ignorance is frustrating!!!) but now I can read a book and figure out whether or not the author is a Southerner in nothing flat. I'm surprised I tolerated that accent at all; I still think it was over-the-top and I'm frustrated that he chose that particular accent for quite a few of the Oklahomans. But, like I said, it was the right book for my mood.

      Oh, thanks. I thought that was such a sweet pose. I had the blinds closed and it was a bit dark so there's some camera movement; that's what makes it a "bad" photo. But, I love the sweet expression on her face. You're too kind, Chris. :)

  4. Poor Izzy...we tried the towel burrito thing with Piper when we had to give him ear drops...he always managed to squirm out!

    1. Ha! I like the name "towel burrito"! Izzy is such a tiny thing that it usually works. It upsets her and she tries to get away but mostly she just makes this little pitiful sound and I end up telling her it's all right with a little head rub, before I get around to sticking medicine down her throat. I think this morning's dose was her last -- will see how much I can get into the syringe, tonight, and if it's less than a full dosage I'll just call it done.

      Love the name Piper!!!

  5. Well, you caught my interest! I love good science fiction, and with the author's qualifications, this one sounds like a winner.

    As a Louisiana native, I, too, object to books with heavy accents that don't fit my experience. And a little goes a long way when reading.

    Fiona and Izzy are always photogenic. What posers!

    1. Jenclair,

      I should caution you that the writing is not great but the story is good and the technical aspect is *mostly* believable. There are some plot holes. It's mostly just a very fun ride. You have to work a bit at suspending disbelief but it's great for when you're in the mood for action.

      Yep, I agree completely with that statement: ". . . a little goes a long way." I think one reason Alex George's book, A Good American, worked was because he didn't go overboard on the New Orleans accent. Less is more.

      Thanks! This morning, I followed Izzy around while she attacked a penny, trying to get action shots. I needed the other camera. My Nikon's not so great for action, unfortunately. But, hopefully, at least one will turn out.

  6. I've been eyeing this book for a while (love the cover) but I haven't taken the plunge. I'm actually really glad to have the warning about the accents because I think that could have bothered me. Maybe not given the context of the book, but I tend to think it would've bugged.

    1. It'll probably drive you crazy, Andiloo. But, it's fun. You just have to suspend your disbelief and, I guess, tell yourself the accents are extremely rural. Just be sure to save the reading for a time when nothing but extreme action will hold your attention because that's what it's good for!

  7. I think I might have been a little offended had an author written that to me, but as usual, you handled yourself with grace and aplomb. I am not sure if the book is for me, but I am sure that my husband and son would love it. Thanks for sharing all your bookish news with us today. I hope the move goes smoothly!

    1. I don't get offended very easily, to be honest! Too old, maybe. I hope I didn't offend the author too badly. Not sure how well I handled it but I'll try to be more careful what I say!

      You're more of a literature type of gal, aren't you? Probably not for you, then, but it's definitely great for people who love action. I've tried to get Kiddo to read Robopocalypse. He said, "Mom, I've read I, Robot. I doubt anything can stand up to that." LOL Funny kid. I've got him reading a paranormal we found for a quarter, so I'm just happy he's reading.

      Thanks! We close next week! I can't believe I'm buying a house. We've been in this one forever!!

  8. I'm interested in Robopocalypse. I hope it has a story amidst the fighting, though.

    I really hate trying to dose my kitty or cut her nails she makes it nearly impossible.

    1. You might see something I didn't, but it's mostly a story of survival and ingenuity. It does have some plot holes. I mostly think it's best for when you're looking for something that has a lot of action that requires very little brainpower!!!

      I *think* we're done with Isabel's medicine. I put the bottle back in the fridge but will check to see if there's enough for one last dose, tonight, and then we're through!!! I have no treats to give Izzy, though. We ran out. Ack. I was so spoiled by our last kitty. Our Miss Spooky was so easy. It's really hard starting over with a new kitty and learning what works but I think we did pretty okay, considering she was so terrified. I think she thought I was trying to kill her. Izzy's pretty skittish.


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