The book: Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill
The summary: Humanity is long dead. Robots rule the earth. But are they really less bloodthirsty and self-destructive than their creators? Brittle, a service robot turned infamous scavenger, finds out over the course of her journeys in the Sea of Rust.
The review: I loved it. I read the whole thing in three days.
I heard about this book through one of the book recommendation subreddits when I searched the term “Borderlands.” I was trying to find books that had similar settings and irreverent, tongue-in-cheek sensibilities of that famed video game franchise.
Sea of Rust fit the bill. It’s in a similarly apocalyptic wasteland and is often quite humorous but never in a stupid way (actually sometimes in quite stupid ways but Cargill is so good at making all the stupid shit still amount to something serious. I’m envious).
What I enjoyed most about this book is, for the most part, it wasn’t optimistic or hand-holdy or pandering. Characters died, often suddenly, and there were no easy answers.
I have read some criticisms of this book that it’s a little too “philosophy 101” at parts and the protagonist is very “brooding anti-hero” and the kernel of that is true but Cargill I think was aware of this and you don’t get *too much* of that shit (though yeah it exists and occasionally got an eye roll from me).
Here’s my favorite part of the book (spoiler): There’s a character named 19 who, in her past life before the bots overthrew and murdered the humans, was a sex robot. Since then she’s become a revered tracker/assassin. She has a bit of romantic banter with Brittle. I was so dreading that this would become a thing because 19 was just so many cliches bolted together. I hated it whenever she was on the page. She doesn’t last long. I think two chapters later she gets blown into fucking pieces by CISSUS, a mega-AI hive mind. Lesser writers would’ve had 19 survive and rehabilitate Brittle (a manic pixie dream...robot?) or would’ve had 19 die but used that as some kind of emotional arc for Brittle. Instead she dies and Brittle moves on with her life because that’s the world they live in. Brutal. Callous. Uncaring.
Definitely pick this one up. Despite it’s handful of flaws, it’s very enjoyable and fast-paced.