Book Review: Darrin Grimwood’s Destroy All Robots

Destroy All Robots

A giant toy robot looms over a pair of terrified marines, overlaid with the legend ‘Destroy All Robots’. The kitsch cover art of Darrin Grimwood’s new novel matches the cheesy creature-feature opening with a ship pulling into the cove of a mystery island, marines pouring out onto the beach and steely-eyed General declaring ‘Destroy All Robots’, a fist raised before him to punctuate the command . . .
. . . but then someone shouts cut and you realise that this is the set of a new television show that is part Survivor and part Robot Wars, and suddenly you think that the cheesy opening just got worse. But despite the cheddar, I decided to look beyond its exterior and opening and persevered. I figured an author brave enough to start with something like that may have more to offer.
The back-story to the beach landing is that a reality television producer has come up with a new show that exploits a strong societal prejudice towards the robots that have replaced them as cheap robots. The producer has offered a multi-million dollar prize fund to the winner of the show. This is an offer Tobey Badernoch can not pass up. His intentions are noble, the prize money will help him pay for his mother’s research, a famous scientist at the cutting edge of prosthetic limb replacement, to find a cure for a degenerative disease that is killing his brother. Tobey has secretly developed a humanoid robot, named Eve, entirely from prosethetics and has entered her into the competition. The prize fund has attracted other roboticists too, some with less nobler causes and zero moral fiber. Inevitably, things don’t go as planned for the producer as disaster strikes and suddenly Tobey and his friend Caitlin find themselves stranded with a bunch of misfits and madmen, on an island crawling with robots programmed to kill.
Whilst the idea isn’t wholly original; after all we have had Robot Wars and the Robot Combat League on our screens for a while now, and books/films like the Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies, The Running Man and Battle Royale have explored similar premises, this does feel like a refreshing break from gothic romances, medieval fantasy and hard sf that is clamoring for shelf space at your nearest bookshop. The characters and their robots are interesting and well supported with info and graphics on a dedicated website, but despite attempts to give them all back-stories, come across as being somewhat two dimensional and yes, cheesy. There are a few nice surprises in the plot, but overall fails to really break out and do something radical with the story. The book ends with the promise of a sequel, although the author fails to make a good case for the need of a sequel, with very little for the reader to mull over in the interim period.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is bored of the usual settings, but can’t really push it any further than that. The author is an interesting talent, but perhaps the material itself is too limited for Grimwood to really make people sit up and take notice. I’m giving this book a reasonable 2 out of 5.

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