In this debut novel, an android terrorist destroys Washington, D.C., in an attempt to take over the world.
In 2051, the Palomino Corporation can upload the minds of dying humans into the bodies of android replicas. Two weeks before Christmas, President Frederick S. Nelson holds a press conference to announce that Palomino’s widely distributed J-8000 model will be recalled due to suspected major defects. Moments later, chaos erupts at the White House as forces controlled by a vicious android named Apollyon overtake the Secret Service. This day becomes known as Day Zero—the start of “one of the greatest wars in modern history.” Caught in the middle are D.C. natives Zach Becker, a war vet and cop; Emily Wedlund, a National Guard combat specialist; and young Jiro, an 8-year-old android. Apollyon has a specific reason for hunting the robot boy, whose cash-strapped parents threatened to return him, and he recruits another remorseless android named Emma to hijack a Wi-Fi component to help complete what he calls Operation Plexus. Luckily, there are still some sane androids left at the Crystal Lake Chapel, where all “Palomin” are welcome. Yet nowhere is truly safe as long as Apollyon is determined to save the world from humanity. Author Wilcoxson’s blood-drenched debut will be a hearty read for fans of the films Robocop (1987) and The Terminator (1984). Comprised primarily of simple, declarative sentences, the narrative often clatters forward like a runaway screenplay. This style helps to effectively dramatize familiar scenes, including Apollyon’s introduction (“A cracked, battered, and burnt face looks up, revealing mechanical work inside the broken skin”). There are some sedate, human moments, as well, such as when Zack finds a TV remote in the fridge—evidence of his mother’s Alzheimer’s disease. However, they’re deeply overshadowed by the tableaux of well-crafted mayhem; in one firefight, for example, “[h]eads cock back, shoulders spin, and knees launch bone matter.” Despite a breakneck pace leading to a delicious finale, sci-fi fans may wish for a more engagingly futuristic world (although the nod to a second Korean War helps). Nevertheless, the novel’s stunning cliffhanger balances the excessive action.
A novel of full-throttle sci-fi violence for lovers of the 1980s action-film heyday.