Cargill doesn’t ease off the gas pedal, bringing a harsh, but fantastical post-apocalyptic world to life, well with chrome-embodied life. It has been a long time, since I read a 350+ book in less than four days, but SEA OF RUST from C. Robert Cargill broke that drought and I am absolutely thrilled about it.
Following Brittle, a Caregiver bot turned scavenger, they survive in a world of strife and dust. One World Intelligences (OWI) rule the earth now and it will take all the survival skills Brittle knows to avoid total annihilation. Placed thirty years after the fall of human civilization and fifteen years after the last human has died, something unexpected happens and Brittle has their hand forced to take on an impossible journey. It is on this road, amid the wreckage of the dead in the Sea of Rust, where Brittle will be forced to confront the guilt and pain of their choices.
For a novel following only robots, this story is surprisingly cutting with its attention to regret and reflection. The novel carries itself like a thriller with it’s quick moving action and motives, but breathlessly cuts away for interspersed reports of the world prior to humanity’s collapse via Brittle’s memory. Cargill does this effortlessly, not once breaking the flow of the action or narrative, and despite how such world building could be seen as self indulgent, those feelings aren’t present here. It all fits and works as well as any of the functioning robots that inhabit these pages.
And when I say the plot moves, it moves. The book covers maybe two or three days total(I didn’t keep track) and yet it sprawls close to 400 pages without feeling lengthy or drawn out, in fact, I was totally ready to follow Brittle and the gang for at least another 100 pages. Yet, the best thing that emerges from this novel, is that as much as SEA OF RUST is about robots, it’s ultimately a reflection on humanity. Sure, the robots have their own inventive cultures and interactions, which are all immersive, but the shadow of the “creators” is felt throughout this work.
Brittle cannot escape her actions during the robot human war and those consequences. Even the robots themselves sound and act much like humans themselves, which for some readers may be a mark against this book, but for myself it seems like a natural outcome. The robots themselves are often found musing on their existence, which does not sound all that far off from what philosophers have been doing for centuries and this is strangely comforting. All sapient life, I guess, will wrestle with this and why shouldn’t it?
If you’re a fan of robots that bring to mind Asimov and Clark or maybe you enjoy musing on the end of humanity, this may be a book for you. Do not miss out on this Arthur C. Clark nominated work!