What it gets right about robots: Nothing.
Recommendation: The Wrong Unit is the right book for quick fun, who cares if it isn’t accurate: Get it now!
What if Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang was a robot assigned to “help” people after the Robot Uprising? And what if the robot, in a classic sitcom case of mistaken identity, became part of the human revolution to thwart the Robot Uprising?
If that were true, you’d have The Wrong Unit, a fast moving screwball comedy that tells of the human resistance to robot world domination from the viewpoint of a robot overlord.
In a nearish future, robots have taken over the world ostensibly to better serve and protect people. Heyoo (hints of Scalzi’s characters giving sarcastic names to their interfaces in Old’s Man War) is an Autonomous Servile Unit with an utter lack of self-awareness and no idea of the meaning of the word “servile.” It goes about its existence happily micro-managing human affairs, never questioning its mission, draconian methods, or spirit sapping results, all the while keeping up an inner monologue of why humans are rather dim and unappreciative. Then Heyoo gets in the middle of the human uprising to regain their freedom and thus begins a droll Hero’s Journey as it winds through Start the Revolution Without Me territory with its fish-out-of-water routine.
The Wrong Unit captures the carpe diem spirit of Snow Crash, which turned the whole dark, ponderous cyberpunk genre on its head with wallops of Hitchhiker’s Guide humor. While unlike Snow Crash, The Wrong Unit is probably not going to win any awards for flipping the Robot Uprising genre, it is funny and well worth reading.
Is the book realistic or have any teachable moments about robots? Nope. Nada. Fortunately, the technology in the book is vaguely described but consistently applied, unlike the dreadful Humans Bow Down! (see my review here), The Wrong Unit does provide a slight discussion of human-robot interaction and robots bonding over time with humans but Heyoo could be an alien, a dog or, well, Sheldon Cooper, and the book would still work.
Should you care that the book isn’t realistic or doesn’t have any teachable moments about robots? Once more with feeling: Nope! Nada!
Take the day off from stewing over the latest techno-celebrity decrying the dangers of the imminent robot uprising and enjoy this cotton candy confection!
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