Have you ever received a book series for Christmas and not finished it until the next Christmas? That’s my boss lady for you. She started reading Robot Wars (I like to call them Robot Rawrs) in 2018 and finished the last book last month. I’d gobble them all up in one day if I had my way. She said it’s better to savor them out—then I would have a whole year of enjoying them! I told her that would be a whole year of forgetting where the last book left off and spending my time being confused.
I think slow reading is her excuse for not having enough time to read, but she’s promised she’ll be reading more this year and that I can eat the books as she reads them to me. Then I can cough them up for you in a book review. I promise you it’s not disgusting…
Rating: 3 1/2 Claws (that’s the equivalent of 3 1/2 stars)
What we liked: Almost every chapter ended with a cliffhanger, which I’m not sure counts as something I liked. I like cliffs well enough, but not so much just hanging there. It gets tiring on my short arms.
Also, Brouwer’s realistic approach to sci-fi. The events were ones that seemed like they could happen someday. Brouwer also receives a point for refraining from incorporating aliens. Not that I’m prejudiced against the creatures, but they don’t exist, and we don’t believe in imaginary creatures (myself being the exception).
What we didn’t like: We adored the first book because the protagonist struggled emotionally—he was crippled, he barely knew his dad, and the director of the mars project seemed to secretly despise him. But after the first book all he struggled with were evil technicians, evil officials, and evil hamburgers (see book five). Like other book series, the author fleshed out the protagonist’s arc in the first book, and after that it was simply a catalogue of his adventures.
The other thing was that we didn’t like being reminded in every single book about what happened in the previous novel. Gosh, it’s like they expect people to read them out of order or something! One thing publishers have yet to learn about diehard readers is that they never do that!
Brouwer also had a tendency to build up drama for undramatic things. For example, in the fourth book, Tyce walked into a room and saw a man holding a knife against another man’s throat. Brouwer waited four paragraphs before he revealed that person was Tyce’s dad. Hint to writers: Don’t build up intensity where it needn’t be. Tyce would have recognized his dad immediately, yet the context made it sound like he might be a stranger (that’s called deception, people).
What we learned: Brouwer was an expert at making readers turn pages, even long after the emotional appeal had worn off. What if he had kept the internal struggle going? He would have had a masterpiece on his hands! Likewise, as writers, if we are writing a book series, let us write a character arc that encompasses the whole series!
I realize this isn’t always possible; sometimes the problem must be solved in the first book. When that happens, give your character a new internal battle to face. Maybe one that is related to what they experienced in the first book. For example, in my boss’s time travel series, each book has a different positive arc. The first book revolved around the protagonist giving up his dream. By the end, he’s back to pursuing that dream. End of story, right? Wrong. In the next book, he’s busy building that dream, but he’s become so obsessed with it that he loses track of the important things in life.
Favorite book in series: You’ve probably guessed the first one, and you would be 100% correct. We did rather enjoy the last book, though, because Brouwer incorporated a slightly more emotional appeal than the others.
Although Robot Wars isn’t a perfect series (but no series is), I do believe it is worth any dinosaur’s time. Just be sure to have a firm grip on your seat—you’ll need it! Now me and Mariposa are off to tackle the ever-popular Fawkes!