As a book lover your requirements for reading change every time you pick up a new book. Sometimes you want to be challenged. Sometimes you want to be lazy. Sometimes you just need to be taken away from the world around you and forget about life’s worries. It all depends on a whole bunch of factor’s that might be affecting you as you stand in a bookshop/ browse online. However, there are times in your life when you come face-to-face with a book that you can neither justify nor walk away from. For me, that time was a few weeks ago and that book was this one. I was first attracted by the holographic cover. Was further pulled in by the hilariously simplistic yet superbly effective title Wizards and Robots. Finally, I was inescapably hooked as soon as I read that Will.I.Am was a co-author. Reader, I married it… ahem, I mean bought it. I am unapologetic to have picked up this book instantly without knowing anything about it and, also, for doing so expecting (nay hoping) for it to be shit.
Okay so, spoiler alert, Wizards and Robots is a YA book about wizards and robots. I know, I know. It’s a shocking piece of information but it was going to come up at some point in this review so we might as well get it over with as soon as possible. WAR is set in the year 2052 where robots are starting to become standard tech for everybody. Everything is run by computers and there are security drones constantly policing the skies. We meet Ada Luring, a teenage tech-wiz who is obsessed with AI technology. Her mother, Dr Sara Luring, is attempting to create a robot that is able to surpass human intelligence for a competition. Unbeknownst to the Lurings, they are both about to become embroiled in the battle that has secretly been raging since 1489. A castle in modern-day Slovenia was attacked by a group of ‘metal men’ who destroyed the a book of sacred magical texts. The text contained the secrets of the wizard race who were forced to go into hiding when the book was destroyed. Hibernating underground, the wizards vow to one day prevent the rise of the robots.
In other words, we’re dealing with The Terminator meets Harry Potter with a bit of Back to the Future time travel thrown in for good measure. And, I’ll be honest, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. As you know, I always have my doubts about YA fiction in general but YA science-fiction tends to be the most clichéd of the lot. The general formula seems to be you just make up a bunch of science words and talk a lot of jargon and go crazy. Which this kind of is but there’s something about it that works. It has a sense of reality about it that gives the story a sense of expertise. It keeps everything grounded enough that event the most ridiculous elements seem forgivable. Either that or it’s just so much fun that you don’t give a shit that it doesn’t make sense.
There is a fair bit of time travel at play here so the narrative jumps between eras. We see action take place in 1489, 2052 and 3019 throughout the novel. I’m normally not a massive fan of books that do this because it seems like a really obvious and lazy way to create tension. And I’m not going to say that the time travel in WAR doesn’t take place at conveniently cliffhanger-y moments but the story goes at such a pace that it doesn’t matter in the end. Plus, it’s always super obvious how everything is going to turn out anyway so the cliffhangers don’t really have any impact on you anyway. The time jump just gives you a bit of a break before the inevitable happens.
Of course, the greatest thing about this book is the title, which is a “does exactly what it says on the tin” kind of deal. Just like Snakes on a Plane defied its basic title by being an extremely fun watch, this novel is entertaining. It’s just not necessarily very good. There is a lot going on in the narrative and most subplots lack depth and are mostly left unresolved. There are some strands that really go nowhere and just take valuable time away from the main story. There is a story-line surround a group of anti-AI protesters that had so much potential but is just wasted and totally dropped when the action steps up.
None of the characters in this novel feel very well-developed. Neither of our two leads, Ada and Gellar, the world’s last wizard, have an awful lot about them. They both just seem like classic YA stereotypes supplanted in a world of robots. Ada is shy, bookish, a bit of tomboy and dealing with the death of her father. Gellar is sheltered, desperate to prove himself as a man, and mourning his mother. We’ve seen these characters before and we’ve seen them done better. But it doesn’t really matter. This isn’t really a story about them. They merely move the action forward.
This is a story about the concept of wizards fighting robots and, provided that’s a sentiment that excites you as much as it did me, then you’ll enjoy this book enough. I won’t pretend it’s the greatest read but for what it is, YA sci-fi written by one of the Black Eyed Peas, it’s an interesting one. You can’t spend too long thinking about things or you’ll never be able to get through it. However, it’s the perfect way to shut yourself off. And, most importantly, it’s a quick and easy read. It gets better as it goes along but there is a definite drop off at the end. I mean the ending isn’t quite recent Stephen King bad but there it is a sense that nobody really knew how to end it. Still, it’s worth a read. I mean it’s wizards and robots for God’s sake.