Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Bot Wars

Bot Wars

J.V. Kade
For ages 9 to 12
Penguin, 2013   ISBN: 978-0803738607

Several years ago the robots in the United States rose up in a revolt in Chicago, and the Bot War began. The conflict started because the bots had been given special chips that gave them human-like qualities so that they were no longer unthinking automata. They became better nannies and babysitters, but they also began to realize that they were being treated unfairly. They had a sense of self and no longer accepted being treated like slaves.

   The humans won the war, in a manner of speaking, but many of them were killed or injured in the conflict. Now the United States is the United Districts (UD) and the country is struggling to survive because bots have been outlawed. Without them there are not enough workers to keep industries going. Life in this new world is pretty grim and it doesn’t help that the UD government is determined to keep it citizens under very tight control.

   During the war Trout’s father disappeared and no one has seen or heard from him for more than two years. Since then Trout’s big brother, Po, has been doing his best to provide for himself and Trout. Po works hard and he tries to be there for Trout, but Trout misses his father and he desperately wants to find him or at last find out what happened to him.

   After having a particularly hard time, Trout decides that he cannot just sit and wait for someone to do something. He has to make an effort to find his dad. Biting the bullet, Trout asks a girl he knows from school, Tellie, if she can help. Tellie is from a rich family and she is pretty, stuck up, and she is not the kind of person Trout usually spends time with, but he is desperate. Surprisingly, Tellie is willing to help. She and Trout make a short vid which she posts for him.

   The vid is picked up by a Net star called Aaron Dekker and goes viral. When Po finds out what Trout has done he goes ballistic, which is when Trout finds out that his father isn’t dead, and Po knew all along. Po refuses to tell Trout what is happening ,insisting that it is better that he not know.

   The very next day Po goes out to do some errands. A few hours later he calls Trout and tells him to “RUN!” Po doesn’t have time to give Trout an explanation. He is pulled away from the phone screen violently and the call is ended. Trout runs, and he quickly realizes that Po was right to tell him to do so. Uniformed men pursue Trout and he runs to Tellie’s house hoping he can hide there. He is horrified when a robot, a real honest-to-goodness robot, comes through the window and into Tellie’s room. The robot explains that he is there to save Trout, to get him away from the Patrolmen who are looking for him. The robot tells Trout that Po has been taken into custody and that the UD plan on using Po to get Trout’s father to give himself up. They must not get their hands on Trout as well. Before Trout can think through what to do, they hear footsteps outside Tellie’s bedroom door. There is no time. The robot grabs Trout and carries him out of the window and they fly at great speed away from the city.

   This exciting book will keep readers guessing from the first page to the last. It is interesting to see how Trout’s understanding of his world changes over time as he begins to realize that he has been lied to by his government and his family. As he tries to understand his new reality, Trout also learns that there are times when you have to take risks to save the people you care about.