Becker introduces a handful of “zoobots,” mechanical contrivances inspired by creatures from the animal kingdom.
This is a not-altogether-surprising collection of robotic tools serving a variety of tasks that humans may not be able to do or would rather not do even if they were able. The machines are touted as the “creepiest, crawliest” creatures, but in fact, it is the natural animals that the robots evolved from that rate the “downright weirdest” label: the black ghost knifefish, the Etruscan pygmy shrew and, of course, the snake. Becker provides specifications, applications, inspirations from the animal kingdom and “special operations”: how they actually might work. The Octobot, for instance, is a silicone-covered cabled “tentacle” that can flex and tighten. While Ries’ artwork is suitably futuristic—and the design features lots of black, signaling an intergalactic milieu—only a few of the robots really pack much wow; the fact that none has moved past prototype stage is a bit deflating. The bots can be used for military applications, crawling through fire, reaching nooks inaccessible to humans, fixing deep-sea oil spills, monitoring pollution and, of course, surveillance.
Though the premise is cool, what’s delivered is too short on the shock, mind-boggling and bizarre-originality factors. (Picture book. 7-10)