Review of the Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill

I just finished reading Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill.📚 This novel paints a world where humankind is extinct – wiped out by their invention – sentient AIs and Bots.

OWIs control the world now, mainframes of assimilated robot minds. But not all robots joined the one.

In this book, we follow one of the still individual robots in her survival: Brittle. She lives in the sea of rust, one of the last holdouts where robots can still hide from the OWIs. But after an encounter with another robot, her days are numbered – will she survive her desperate hunt for spare parts?


Please note that from here on out, the text can contain spoilers of the book.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I liked the main character and also the sometimes unexpected turns of events in the plot lines. It was also fascinating how the author built a world ruled by AIs that did not follow such ideas' usual style.

I especially liked the description of how the bots gain consciousness. Their start out with data and all the knowledge, but this is not enough. Gaining understanding and a personality takes time and perhaps also work. Having the bots run through the first part of their lives sleepwalking is an exciting concept.

But there were also some negative aspects to the book. I was not too fond of the description of a lousy CPU where the ram takes. It did not make any technical sense and took me out of the story multiple times. I had to fight hard to keep my suspension of belief while reading these parts. Ram cannot take over for a failing CPU. The other way around could perhaps work. Or the hard drive can take over for failing ram.

Hidden in the book’s plot are also some interesting philosophical questions regarding life and evolution, which I need to ponder about: Is one better than many unrelated parts working together? Also, the argument that we humans were obsolete and therefore needed to go is exciting and unexpected. Or the question, what is intelligence? The author states that something is intelligent when it can ignore its programming.

“You know them. We were all programmed with them. A robot can’t hurt a human being. It must follow orders given by a human being. And it must try to avoid coming to harm unless doing so would violate the first two. Trouble is, by definition, true intelligence can ignore its programming.”

But in the end, the author managed to take me on a journey and surprised me with a shocking twist – where I felt as betrayed as the main character. And when an author managed to pull this off, I like a book.


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