PrintE-mail Written by Ed Fortune

C. Robert Cargill is one of those names that those who know anything about genre fiction tend to watch out for. He’s a clever and prolific chap, currently working on the script for the Deus Ex movie and responsible for the scripts for Hollywood hits such as Sinister and Doctor Strange. Somehow, he still finds the time to write novels.


Sea of Rust is his latest offering and is something of a departure. His previous works, Dreams and Shadows and Queen of Dark Things, were urban fantasy. This new book is very firmly post-apocalyptic sci-fi at its darkest.

Mankind finally wiped itself out, leaving only the remnants of its ingenuity to rule over a desolate land. The most powerful AI’s are at war over the dwindling resources, absorbing the memories and minds of any machine they can find. Those few free machines wander the titular Sea of Rust, a graveyard of spare parts where machines are moments away from collapse and oblivion.

The story focuses on Brittle, a robot purchased during the last days of mankind to care for the dying and forgotten. Brittle made harsh choices to survive, some of which haunt it to this day. We have two tales here; one of Brittle’s daily struggle for existence and choices it has to make to remain alive, and the other gives us a look into how all this came to pass, and how mankind itself was doomed.

It would be exceptionally easy and lazy of us to describe this as Grim Dark Wall-E or a post-apocalyptic version of Short Circuit, or even Mad Max meets AI. Instead, what we have is an extended parable about selfless heroism and selfish action. Of how humanity doesn’t mean human, and how the idea of better world is as hopeful as it is deadly.


Cargill is a powerful talent; his world building is excellent and his storytelling is addictive. With its haunting, dust filled world, its crazy post-apocalyptic societies and heart-breaking dialogue, we’d say that Sea of Rust is an instant classic.

Read it for the Mad Max style robot on robot action and the full on nature of the story, stay for sense of loss, the gorgeous prose and the unforgettable yet somehow re-affirming bleakness. Recommended.


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