A thrilling adventure in a world one step away from total subjugation by machines
After long years of war, the United States has sued for peace, yielding to a brutal coalition of nations ruled by fascist machines. One quarter of the country is under foreign occupation. Manhattan has been annexed by a weird robot monarchy, and in Tennessee, a permanent peace is being delicately negotiated between the battered remnants of the U.S. government and an envoy of implacable machines.
Canadian businessman Barry Simcoe arrives in occupied Chicago days before his hotel is attacked by a rogue war machine. In the aftermath, he meets a dedicated Russian medic with the occupying army, and 19 Black Winter, a badly damaged robot. Together they stumble on a machine conspiracy to unleash a horrific plague—and learn that the fabled American resistance is not as extinct as everyone believes. Simcoe races against time to prevent the extermination of all life on the continent . . . and uncover a secret that America’s machine conquerors are desperate to keep hidden.
—Daniel H. Wilson, bestselling author of Robopocalypse and The Clockwork Dynasty“An epic novel of man vs. machine, full of action, political intrigue, and unexpected twists. Todd McAulty has given us a fresh, compelling take on life during a robot apocalypse.”
—Jeff Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of Blame“Todd McAulty has done the incredible. Delivered a rich and credible near-future world, where Thought Machines control, well, almost everything (and are themselves astonishingly diverse and cool), and used all this to create the most human SF story I’ve read in a very long time. I love everything about The Robots of Gotham. I want more, McAulty. MORE!”
—Julie E. Czerneda, author of The Clan Chronicles
“When the robot apocalypse comes, I hope it’s this much fun. Like The Martian and Ready Player One, The Robots of Gotham is set in a high-tech near-future where something has gone terribly wrong, and it’s navigated by a hero who’s quirky, resourceful, and as likable as they come. Read it for the rock’em-sock’em-robot action—read it for the deft world-building with its detailed taxonomy of intelligent machines—read it for the sobering parallels to modern-day issues and threats. Or just read it because it’s a helluva good ride.”
—Sharon Shinn, author of the Elemental Blessings series
“The Robots of Gotham is a crackling good adventure, stuffed with cool action sequences. It also features serious and intriguing speculation about the potential of Artificial Intelligence, for good and bad. And it’s an engaging read, with absorbing characters, and, of course, lots and lots of nifty robots.”
—Rich Horton, editor of The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy
“Todd McAulty has imagined a fascinating geopolitical future, filled it with some very cool technology, and thrown in healthy helpings of intrigue and action. The result is a page-turner that kept me riveted from the opening lines to the final chapter. Highly recommended!”
—David B. Coe, author of The Case Files of Justis Fearsson
“If Johnny 5 had a baby with the Terminator, the result would be The Robots of Gotham: a book that explores the consequences of world domination by our Robot Overlords. (And, lest we forget the badassiest of them, our Robot Overladies.) Drones, dinosaurs, and doggies—with a plague thrown in for good measure!—the barter is banter, and death is cheap. With man against machine, machine against machine, man against man, unlikely alliances must be forged across all species, rational or otherwise. For all its breakneck world-building, constant questing, and relentless wheeling and dealing, The Robots of Gotham is deceptively deep-hearted: a novel about, of all things, friendship.”
—C.S.E. Cooney, author of World Fantasy Award-winning Bone Swans: Stories
“Soldiers, spies, diplomats—and that’s just the machines. Wait until you meet the wise-cracking hero and his dog. Wildly inventive, outrageous fun!”
—Kay Kenyon, author of At the Table of Wolves and Serpent in the Heather
“Adventure, mystery, action, sinister intrigue, clever heroics, and robots—what more do you need? I couldn’t put it down.”
—Howard Andrew Jones, author of The Desert of Souls
About the Author
Top customer reviews
This is McAulty’s first novel, and it’s a humdinger of a one, a hard science thriller that never lets up. The liner notes state that he was project manager at the startup that created Internet Explorer and he now works for a machine learning company in Chicago. It’s good background for a novel that revolves around questions of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and that demands familiarity with internet communication protocols and methods.
The novel unfolds via a series of blogs, written by two parties, the hero, a Canadian businessman named Barry Simcoe, and a created intelligence who calls himself Paul the Pirate. Paul’s blogs backfill the history and structure of the time the story takes place, 2083. Barry’s tell the story of a life and death, hell for leather race to identify a fast acting, nearly always fatal pathogen that starts killing people and is moving in on Chicago, where the story takes place. The news is even worse once it’s identified: the pathogen was almost certainly developed by a Supreme Intelligence, the highest level of AI machine, whose goal is to wipe out mankind. From then on, it’s a race to the finish line with Barry and his two allies, a Russian doctor name Sergei and an AI named 19 Black Winter, at constant risk, though never as much as Barry, who rockets from one crisis point to the next, with the chances of him surviving, much less succeeding, reducing each time. All this happens in a fragmented world dominated largely by machine intelligences. Most human-led nations have become machine-run: the distinctions that count now are friendly to humans or not and elected sovereigns (though they are generally machines now) or dictators. The United States isn’t any more. After a devastating war, there are different zones in what used to be one country, from the machine-governed Kingdom of Manhattan to the United States Free Zone (it still has a human president), the Union of Post-American States (not explained in this novel but part of the background) and the Occupied Zone, policed by a multi-state force but largely Venezuelan. (Venezuela is governed by a fascist machine cabal.) Barry’s in Chicago and Chicago is in the Occupied Zone. Venezuelan soldiers and spy drones police the city and are an on again off again threat to Barry’s and Sergei’s efforts to produce and distribute an antigen to the coming plague.
AI machines come in levels of autonomy and intelligence. The highest is Supreme Intelligence. They have personalities: machines have perfected a form of machine sex which allows them to merge and create new AIs, who go through their own gestation periods and develop their own personalities and preferences. One of them –a very powerful one, even among Supreme Intelligences—is behind the plot to decimate mankind and thus is Barry’s very deadly enemy. So how do you outsmart a thinking machine that can calculate odds, assimilate and coordinate information and access i sources better and faster than you could ever conceivably do these things on your own? (There is an answer. It involves a secret ally.)
This first novel has all the virtues of the best of hard science fiction writing: an ingenious look at a plausible future which depends on technology in ways our own does not yet; a reasonable extrapolation from where we are now to where they are then; and at least a decent shot at making the near incomprehensible technological future understandable to non-techies. It is just as successful at avoiding the trap of hard science fiction, which is the ingoing of writerly concerns like decent characterization and sense of place, and keeping the plot moving to an acceptable and satisfying conclusion. The very end (in a 650+ novel, “the very end” means the last hundred pages) is not as wholly believable as what happens before then. But it’s not outrageously compacted and there is no deus ex machina to save the day –Barry does it himself. Barry is great hero and he’s a full fleshed man, not cut out of cardboard as sometimes happens in novels like this. (Vide some of the recent writings of Peter S. Hamilton.) Sergei and Black Winter and several other secondary characters, including two dynamite women players, both potential romantic interests in a sequel, a wonderful guard robot at the hotel where Barry and Sergei are staying named Zircon Border (he is bored with his guard work and spends most of his interior time communicating with a porpoise pod he is study thousands of miles from Chicago)—the book is populated with interesting and appealing characters. The technology, too, is stunning –I won’t say anything about it but two of the inventions described in the book play a part in Barry’s and Sergei’s chances for success.
If you read Nick Bostrom’s nonfiction 2014 best-seller Superintelligence, the world Barry navigates here will ring a bell. It’s clear the machines have won. The question is: where do humans fit into this world?
– The author is the real deal. Look him up, read his credentials … he knows Ai.
– This book is huuuuuuuge! 680+ pages will guarantee that you will be immersed in its world.
– Storyline is that America outlawed the development of artificial intelligence and lost a quick-fought war against certain countries which are actually being led by robots.
25% of America is now occupied by Venezuelan “peacekeeping” forces.
– The story is narrated by the smack-talkin’ main character Barry Simcoe, a Canadian CEO who recently arrived in Chicago to close some international technology deals. He takes on the robots with the help of a beat up robot named “19BlackWinter” and a dog.
What I enjoyed most besides the current up-to-date themes was the adventure style writing that kept my pages turning. There’s a lot of geopolitical human/robot intrigues that keep the reader in the future tense of the ongoing question of what is, or is not a sentient being. Another fascinating aspect of the writing is the author’s characterizations of the robots that give them personalities and various character traits inherent in machine intelligence. As the author’s other job is intrinsically intimate with this field of endeavor it brings a quality of reality to the turning pages.
There’s even romance in the air: Yeah? What panties do you wear? She leaned forward, putting her hands on the table on either side of me. She slid closer, until her cheek brushed mine. Her warm body was up against me, and her lips were next to my eye/You’ll never know, she whispered.
A little slow at times, to bridge some of the several plot lines going on concurrently; butplenty of action, intrigues, future themes, romance, and humor.