Sea of Rust
by C Robert Cargill

This is actually a September title and already in the store. I was intrigued by it last month, but it didn’t make into the newsletter which I regret now since the book is not doing as well as I think it should. I thought I’d do something to correct this by making it this month’s review. To begin with, it’s basically an action SF adventure novel but it’s not just that. There are some very clever ideas as well as tense moments and fight scenes.

The first really interesting thing about the book is that it starts where the others usually finish. In this case it’s the end of the world, for humanity anyway. The Artificial Intelligence rebellion of the machines has happened and they’ve won. Humans are gone and the robots and other intelligences they built have inherited what is left of the Earth. It’s no utopia though because there are factions, agendas and rivalries between the robots. The most powerful of the AI’s or One World Intelligences as they are now called have become the planet’s new gods with the extra ability that when a robot invites one in to it, it really does take over the robot’s life. And they want to take over everyone. To be free of them means to live on the fringes and wastes. It also means scavenging for parts, virtual cannibalism. Of all the remote places inhabited by outcasts and the defective, the Sea of Rust is probably the worst. The grave of one city, millions of people and countless bots, it is Brittle’s home. She’s the best guide, tracker and scavenger. She’s also a rare model and while the parts she finds have value to others she can’t repair herself so easily. That’s why, after receiving critical damage from an ambush and with a promise of the parts she needs, she’s agreed to escort a party of strange robots through dangerous territory to a town that is the place where the end of humanity began.

While reading this book it occurred to me that I’ve never wondered what Skynet, or the machines behind the Matrix actually wanted. It’s always a given that the intelligences want to wipe out humanity, but no one ever really asks why. What are they expecting to do after? They’re supposed to be smart, to be able to plan, so what are they trying to achieve? One of the great things about this book is that there are answers to these questions. Some are via the memories that Brittle experiences as her systems fail and others come from the bots she guides. It’s an interesting take on the man vs machine idea and I like it. It’s still primarily an adventure story, but there’s some serious stuff here too. As farĀ as I can tell it’s a stand-alone book and has an ending, though I’d certainly read a sequel.