Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill

Posted On 28 September 2017

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sofeaI loved Sea of Rust.  It’s a post apocalyptic book with a difference.  A harsh look at a potential future where humans no longer exist.  It has a western vibe, the world building is excellent and it has a wonderfully reminiscent feel of stories from the past such as Terminator, The Matrix, Mad Max and even Asimov’s Foundation whilst at the same time standing on it’s own to feet.  I was glued to the pages and couldn’t read fast enough, always with an eager but anxious sense of anticipation.

So, basically this book plays into that fear that many people secretly harbour.  Can humans really create artificial intelligence without any repercussions.  It’s a difficult question and not quite so simple to answer.  In Sea of Rust the humans and AI went to war and the humans lost – yes, that seems fairly simple on the face of it but as you read on you realise there was so much more to it than that.  The AIs didn’t simply decide to exterminate mankind, it was much more complicated.

What then remains you may ask.  A bunch of robots with no purpose??  Again, more complicated.  In a strange twist of irony the robots have gone to war with each other – they’re created by humans after all so I guess it’s in their wiring eh!  Anyway, the world has been taken over by these huge super computers that are assimilating all the freebots into their systems thereby losing the robots own ‘personality’ as they become one, joined and thinking the same as all the rest.  Of course there are the remaining freebots who don’t want to be part of this bigger, all seeing, all knowing, super computer and many of those now wander the wastelands simply trying to remain functional and searching for parts which leads us to the Sea of Rust.

At the start of the story we make the acquaintance of Brittle, following in the footsteps of a robot that is about to expire in hope of collecting any functional parts.  It sounds harsh, but in a world where parts for robots are no longer manufactured the free robot world has become a little dog eat dog.  Now pan back and discover that the hunter is also being hunted.  I’ll leave the plot at this point and let you discover it yourself.  It’s a compelling story, fast paced, well written and a pleasure to read.

I really enjoyed the world building, the narrative voice of Brittle is very easy to get along with, although, yes, there were a few info dumps in the form of flashbacks, personally, I enjoyed those elements of the story because as well as providing interesting information into the prior history of the world they also helped me to form a better idea of who Brittle really was.

The characters were all interesting and well rounded.  Some of them slightly insane, some of them completely ruthless, others just completely fixed on the end goal.  To be honest it was much the same as reading about a bunch of humans trying to survive in a harsh environment although with different problems along the way – no hunting for food for example, but plenty of scavenging for spare parts.  You could ask yourself why not base the story on humans then?  I liked the difference here, the idea of all computers/AI/Robots isn’t simply a gimmick but has a strong grounding in terms of the story and I really respect that the author didn’t then try to introduce an underground element of survivors but stuck to his guns.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, not very much to be honest.  I did find myself at one point thinking that the bots were almost too human in their speech and other ways but I think you just have to go with the flow a little in that respect and I was enjoying the story so much that I didn’t find it a problem.  Not to mention there is an element of these robots, having defied their own programming, they have gone in different ways, they’re not identical any longer and there was a sort of touching and bitter sweet element to some of them in that they missed humans, they seemed almost sad.  There was also the question of Brittle’s gender – which it turns out Brittle was classified as female, I wouldn’t say Brittle comes across as female but ultimately I think that there’s a reason for that – the genders assigned to the bots were applied by humans, basically they don’t really have any gender but clearly humans liked to think of them in that way for their own peace of mind.  For example, Brittle was a carer and then a companion and I suppose it gave her owners peace of mind to think of her as female.  As it is Brittle is every bit as ruthless and driven as any of the other bots.

I thought Sea of Rust was great.  I loved the whole idea behind the story.  I thought the writing was clever and persuasive and I have no hesitation in recommending this.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.



14 Responses to “Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill”

  1. Jennifer | Book Den

    I really enjoyed Sea of Rust, and I agree with your criticism. There were times it felt like I was reading about humans. Brittle was still a great character, though, and I loved the rise of AI/fall of humans. It was pretty chilling because it seemed so plausible.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, a great read, I thoroughly enjoyed it and even though I mentioned my niggle, it really didn’t spoil it for me.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    When I read this, I had the same non-criticism-that-was-more-of-an-observation as you! The robots felt a little too human, and granted, that was probably the author’s intent, but I still think he could have made them just a little more machine-like. Reading from a bot’s perspective was *the* main hook of this book for me, after all! Other than that though, this book was fantastic!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It really was a great read, I’ve not read this author before but I will certainly pick up more of his work.
      Lynn 😀

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Ah, I was quite looking forward to your review for this one! And I’m glad you enjoyed it just as much as I did 🙂
    As for the too-human speech adopted by the machines, I’ve always thought that it might have been a way to keep the memory of humans alive, that adopting their various speech patterns and mannerisms, the robots refused to erase the memory of their creators. Granted, it might sound like a romanticized vision from my point of view, but still, all throughout the book I perceived a note of regret for the passing of humanity, the sense of an irretrievable loss the machines were trying to compensate for…
    Great review, thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I suppose the other thing is the AI developed speech patterns by contact with humans so in a way I understood why they spoke as they did in the story, but a small part of me wished it had been a little more obvious, every now and again, for them to be more robot in their ways of speaking.
      Lynn 😀

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  5. sjhigbee

    A great review, Lynn:). It’s interesting you thought that the robots were too human – like Mogsy I thought the freebots deliberately cultivated that as a mark of rebellion against the super-computer robots which were far more machinelike. But it’s likely I was making an assumption that wasn’t there.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I think that’s part of the beauty of the book tbh – that it leaves some things open to interpretation. I didn’t mind that the robots were very human, it just kind of hit me that they were very much so at one point and I had a brief moment of thinking could this have been written as humans – but, without the storyline, I think definitely not. I thoroughly enjoyed it though and thought the writing was excellent.
      Lynn 😀

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