The Winter of the Robots: Robots

Hate to drop a big spoiler on you, but this book is about robots. And by that I mean autonomous machines, not human characters with metal skins, like C3PO. I’m curious about the robotics of robots — how they’re made and how they work. So much has been done with the far-fetched side of robots, I felt like the nitty-gritty realities were a step into somewhat unexplored territory.

The book involves a lot of staged robot battles, the kind kids compete in for sport. I had a lot of fun writing those scenes and imagining the robots kids would make for those battles. There is also, as the jacket promises, the ultimate robot battle. Even the tallest part of the tale are based on real robots and what they can do.

But the robots are not the hero of this story, it is the kids who make robots. Jim (the protagonist and narrator) doesn’t know it at the beginning of the book, but he has a talent for programming. I think it comes because he has spent so much of his life trying to figure out what other people are thinking, trying to map input to output, reading their faintest signals. What will set his father off on a tirade? What does it mean when a girl offers the faintest of smiles? It’s a great relief to him when he delve directly into the brain of someone, though even his own creations sometimes surprise him.

So Jim is a muggle who turns out to be a wizard, but he can’t do this alone. His friend Oliver has years of expertise. Other characters bring a knowledge of cars and engines, necessary when they upscale the operation, and skills with the tools they need. They make a pretty good team.

I hope that kids who like robots like this book, and I hope kids who didn’t think they like robots will want to build one.

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