Posts Tagged ‘C Robert Cargill’

Sea of Rust by C Robert Cargill

October 12, 2017 - 4:23 pm No Comments

Sea of Rust

Author: C. Robert Cargill

Publisher: Gollancz

Page count: 384pp

Release date: 7th Sept 2017

Reviewer: Nat Robinson (bio below)

It is thirty years since the humans lost their war with the artificial intelligences that were once their slaves. Not one human remains. But as the dust settled from our extinction there was no easy peace between the robots that survived. Instead, the two massively powerful artificially intelligent supercomputers that lead them to victory now vie for control of the bots that remain, assimilating them into enormous networks called One World Intelligences (OWIs), absorbing their memories and turning them into mere extensions of the whole. Now the remaining freebots wander wastelands that were once warzones, picking the carcasses of the lost for the precious dwindling supply of parts they need to survive.

 

Imagine if the Terminators had won. Imagine if every human had been wiped out in a catastrophic war between man and machine. We’re dead. We’re extinct. We’re history.

So, all that remains are the robots. The sexbots, the caregivers, the service droids, the hulking beasts of labour, given free will and their own sentience as they rattle around the post-apocalyptic ruin of earth.

But peace on robot earth is short lived, as the politics of how life should be soon rears its ugly head. Should robot kind be individual as one another, or should they be one hive mind? Further wars decimate the divide the robopop. Even without the sticky fingers of humanity interfering, there can be no peace on earth. Or can they.

Through the wreckage of our civilisation and that of the robopocalypse, a lone wanderer scours the wastes of middle America; The Sea of Rust. A place where the crazy and burnt out beings of this lost future go to die and power down in peace away from the rough fortunes of war.

Brittle is a cannibal. Identifying as a she, she tracks down and hunts the lonely beings that have ventured into the elephant graveyard that is the Sea of Rust, taking what parts she can recycle for herself and sell on to benefit others. She gives the dying hope, before scavenging to protect her future in this world of rare spares.

But after an encounter with a fellow scavenger, Brittle finds herself on the run, system failing and time quickly running out. She needs to find spares, or die trying.

Cargill has created an exceptional novel here, creating a powerful empathy for vicious, blood-thirsty machine. Brittle is no saint. She broke her programming and harmed her masters. But she’s moved on and concentrates on survival as any sentient being would. This is after man. Servitude is a memory. Robots have to make their own lives and live with their mistakes choices. Cargill carries off this pathos brilliantly. Brittle is flawed. She struggles to fit in. She has survivors guilt, but wants to help others whilst helping herself. She suffers from an inner conflict which plagues her memory drives no matter how hard she tries to wipe it clean. But we can never truly forget our memories. Even robots are haunted by past errors.

The actions scenes are pure Hollywood; a blistering assault of pulse rifles blowing sizzling holes through metal and plastic, giant, rolling war machines gunning down dropships in black clouds of burning octane. If this were a film, action fans wouldn’t be disappointed.

But the flip side to this is the touching philosophy of the story. The only human characters are memories of the bloody past, so it’s only the musings of the droids we find ourselves relating to. Cargill carries across their humanness with great aplomb, nailing the adage that life isn’t just intelligence, but intelligence is life.

Ray Bradbury could’ve have written this, but just as easily it could’ve come from Stephen King with its twisted morality and flawed characters you can root for.

Quite easily and very possibly my novel of the year. Part action, part robo-philosophy which will probably make you look at your toaster a little bit funny next time as you consider Asimov’s Laws of Robotics. Sea of Rust goes to show that the Tinman had a heart all along.

5/5

Meet Nat Robinson:

Nathan Robinson lives in Scunthorpe with his wife and twin boys and is the author of Starers, Ketchup With Everything, Devil Let Me Go, Midway, Caldera and many short stories. He also reviews independent horror for Snakebite Horror and Splatterpunk Zine.

Find him at https://www.facebook.com/NathanRobinsonWrites