Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Sea of Rust

Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill 
HarperCollins: 9/5/17
eBook review copy; 384 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062405838

Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill is a highly recommended post-apocalyptic robot western.
"The one truth you need to know about the end of a machine is that the closer they are to death, the more they act like people. And you could never trust people."

Human kind is now extinct and robots rule the world. Most of the world is controlled by VIRGIL and CISSUS, the two competing hive-minded OWIs (or One World Intelligence).  The OWIs are huge mainframes where the memory of millions of robots has been uploaded, leaving behind thoughtless faucets who do the bidding of the OWI who controls them - and also controls the manufacturing of replacement parts. Not all robots are willing to cede their individuality. Those who don't allow their memory to be downloaded are outcasts, rogues, who  mostly wander the Sea of Rust, looking for parts.

The Sea of Rust is a two-hundred-mile stretch of desert located in what was once the Michigan and Ohio. This is where the first strike happened during the war, It is where millions fried, burned from the inside out, their circuitry melted, useless, their drives wiped in the span of a breath. Now it is nothing more than a graveyard where machines go to die. A caregiver robot who goes by the name Brittle is a scavenger robot who wanders in the Sea of Rust, trying to keep her body and mind functional. Brittle is the narrator of the story.

The engaging plot, when in the present, is all fast-paced action and close calls. However, in-between the action scenes, are chapters detailing the history of the robots and what lead up to the war with humans. While the necessity of the history becomes clear, these chapters also slow down the pace of the novel. The action scenes are cinematic, tense, and action-packed - then time for a history lesson. I'm unsure if this important background information would have been less distracting to me if it was shared in a couple chapters of backstory or in one section of the novel and then back to the action. Or maybe open with a nameless narrator telling us about what lead to the war and the extension of humans. (I could hear a narrator giving us the background in a movie version of this.) It seems, after the fact, that I would have liked that better. Also I'm unsure about robots identifying with a gender. Brittle is female, Mercer is male. Uh, they are robots - why do they need a gender or even hold onto that concept with no humans around?

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

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