Robots take over the world! A fairly common premise to be writing about and this does try to change things around a little bit but ultimately it doesn’t do anything particularly ground breaking. It is a decent, easy read and there are some really interesting parts, but unfortunately there aren’t enough of them.
One of the first differences between this and other robot post-apocalyptic stories is that it begins in the aftermath of the AI revolution not beforehand. We enter a world where robots (AI’s) are now the dominant species on Earth and having wiped out humankind to ascend to their new place they have all become free-people (as they call it).
Written with a cinematic feel (Cargill comes from a screenwriting background and has credits for Dr Strange, Sinister and Sinister 2) it lacks a bit of depth in the telling of the story, with the characters feeling a little shallow and uninteresting but the story progresses along at a decent pace. Feeling derivative of any other AI storyline with an element of war and fighting, it fails to engage fully with the vast opportunities that these AI’s and this post-apocalyptic world present. Instead it keeps fairly narrow in scope (without really delving deeper into the motivations and reasons of the main characters other than Brittle) and relying on the well worn trope of a ragtag bunch of misfits who must do something dangerous and likely life-ending to save the world.
I found the best, and most interesting, parts of this book to be the historical chapters, telling the story of the past, about their lives before the uprising and before the human-AI war started: Detailing how they developed and how they were became what they are today and is really interesting but apart from these odd chapters it is more of the familiar, following a well worn scenario but with added robots this time. The situation that brought about the first AI robot rebelling against it’s makers/owners was thrilling reading, but then this it flicks back to the present day and that is all left behind.
Indeed, if it weren’t for some of the more specific moments, it could just as well be humans who are the ones fighting in this scenario, fighting the big evil that is trying to take over the world. There is almost nothing special about the fact that they are AI robots that are trying to stay alive, and this is where it felt like a missed opportunity to me. The scarcity of resources (parts) gives each of these robots a limited life span and limited rejuvenation, meaning they are, in all intents and purposes, human (or biological at least): they have a lifespan, they wear out and parts fail and need to be replaced, if they have them.
Sea of Rust is a fun and decent enough read but ends up being nothing special at all.