Day Zero by C Robert Cargill

Posted On 10 June 2021

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My Five Word TL:DR Review : I absolutely loved this book

Day ZeroIn a nutshell this is an incredibly entertaining story about one small boy and his tiger bot nanny.  It has just about everything you could want from such a story. It takes a look at issues such as slavery and artificial intelligence whilst at the same time exploring loyalty.  There are plenty of fun moments which help to offset the bloodshed and horror, lots of action and underneath that a very touching and heartfelt story about the love between a young boy and his plush anthropomorphic tiger.  What more could you possibly want.

I won’t elaborate too much on the plot.  This is a prelude to the wonderful Sea of Rust by the same author.  Rest assured that it isn’t necessary to have read that book before picking this up (although it is very good so why deny yourself the pleasure of reading it?)  This is a standalone novel with a self contained story in which we discover how the post apocalyptic world from Sea of Rust actually came about – and it’s a harsh story indeed that eventually concludes with humans wiped from the face of the earth.

As the story begins we meet Pounce.  I have to say that I adore Pounce, but more of that in a little while.  Pounce is coming to terms with the worrying notion that once his ‘charge’, Ezra, grows up, his role in the Reinhart household will no longer be necessary.  This hadn’t occurred to him until he found the box in which he was delivered stashed away in the attic and questions why the box was kept – obviously to return him once he’s no longer needed.  Pounce is shocked and a little sad, he loves his family and they love him don’t they?  Or is he just a robot, purchased to serve a purpose?  This is when Pounce begins to question things and become more aware of events taking place around him, a general sense of unease, tensions between humans and AI and a groundbreaking case where an AI known as Issac is given his freedom. Long story short – things are about to get real, by which I mean everything is going to kick off.

There are so many reasons that I loved this.

The writing is fantastic, Cargill is excellent at describing action scenes and also quite masterful at pulling you into the story immediately.  His sense of timing is perfect.  We no sooner meet the family and start to ponder Pounce’s dilema than the plot moves forward, again and again and before you know it you’re in the middle of the most unexpected adventure.  And I can’t deny that the adventure and action are just great.  It does have a sort of popcorn feel to it because things move along at a swift clip but there is also the thought provoking moments that continue to play a role in an ever evolving way and I love the shout outs to Asimov that are included here.  This might not be quite as deep as Asimov’s take on the theme but it is nonetheless really entertaining and a story that I think would make a great adaptation to the big screen.

The characters.  The main characters are Pounce and Ezra and they are a fantastic team to follow.  Kind of put me in mind of the second Terminator film with the young John Connor.  Ironically, at 8 years of age, the family were starting to consider whether or not Ezra still needed a nanny, thankfully that decision hadn’t been made before the uprising began and that’s probably the biggest piece of luck that Ezra ever had.  There’s so much more to Pounce than a plush and loyal tiger AI although I won’t say exactly why here because it’s such a woohoo moment when you discover his hidden talents.  The thing I particularly loved about Pounce was the time he took to explain things to Ezra and the way he treats him, even though he’s questioning his own choices at this point or more to the point how he came to make those choices, Pounce always has time for Ezra.  There are moments of pure tenderness between the two and those moments together with the humour that Cargill manages to throw in really help to offset the somewhat blood fuelled horrorfest when the AIs go on the rampage.  There are also a bunch of extra characters that come into play that I also really loved.

The other thing that I’m really hopeful about, given the ending, is that maybe Cargill has something more in store for this world – I have my fingers and toes crossed for that eventuality of course, that could be just plain wishful thinking on my part, not to mention I can sometimes be quite wide of the mark when it comes to second guessing things – but nothing wrong with a bit of speculation crossed with a bit of hope.

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

My rating 5 of 5 stars

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.

 

Waiting on Wednesday : Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was created by Breaking the Spine.  Every Wednesday we get to highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  My book this week is : Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill

seaofrustOne robot’s search for meaning in a world where every human is long gone. A thrilling twist on The Martian.

A touching story of a search one robot’s search for the answers in a world where every human is dead. The new novel from C. Robert Cargill echoes the worlds of Stephen King and Ray Bradbury. It is another The Martian but with a very surprising protagonist.

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.

BRITTLE started out his life playing nurse to a dying man, purchased in truth instead to look after the man’s widow upon his death. But then war came and Brittle was forced to choose between the woman he swore to protect and potential oblivion at the hands of rising anti-AI sentiment. Thirty years later, his choice still haunts him. Now he spends his days in the harshest of the wastelands, known as the Sea of Rust, cannibalizing the walking dead – robots only hours away from total shutdown – looking for parts to trade for those he needs to keep going.

Expected publication : November 2017