Title: Sea of Rust
Author: C. Robert Cargill
From the back: A scavenger robot wanders in the wasteland created by a war that has destroyed humanity in this evocative post-apocalyptic robot western from the critically acclaimed author, screenwriter, and noted film critic.
Humankind is extinct. Wiped out in a global uprising by the very machines made to serve them. Now the world is controlled by One World Intelligences – vast mainframes that have assimilated the minds of millions of robots.
But not all robots are willing to cede their individuality, and Brittle – a loner and scavenger, focused solely on survival – is one of the holdouts.
Only, individuality comes at a price, and after a near-deadly encounter with another AI, Brittle is forced to seek sanctuary. Not easy when an OWI has decided to lay siege to the nearest safe city.
Critically damaged, Brittle has to hold it together long enough to find the essential rare parts to make repairs – but as a robot’s CPU gradually deteriorates, all their old memories resurface. For Brittle, that means one haunting memory in particular . . .
Sea of Rust boldly imagines a future in which no hope should remain, and yet a humanlike AI strives to find purpose among the ruins.
The gist: I put this book off to read another one. I’m not sure why, and right now that feels like a bit of a travesty. When I read the first page or so, I started off wondering whether I was going to be able to engage with the all-robot cast of characters. Wondering if I would get into it. Wondering if Armageddon would be that interesting without people in it.
And I did and I would and it goddamn is.
Admittedly, I got into the characters because they are somewhat humanified (that’s a word, trust me), but there’s no denying that they’re different from humans, and that they’re consciously aware of that. But what makes this book so interesting (beyond the war ravaged picture of Earth and the multitude of colourful characters) is the depiction of humanity’s demise through politics, robots and greater intelligences than ours. And, subsequently, the war of the robots against their own demons, OWIs, a case of history repeating itself.
And that’s what’s so clever about this book. It doesn’t just tell you how humanity ends. It tells you what comes next.
And it’s bleak and it’s grim and it’s a dark tale of survival and progress. But it’s also a damn fine rocking-chair-shaking read that I can safely say is the first robot western I’ve read, but likely not the last.
Favourite line: “You did not give us legs. Where exactly did you expect us to go?”
Read if: You want a take on the apocalypse where the only humans left are ghosts.
Read with: Cowboy boots and WD-40
Get it: Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill
I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.