Debate Time! Sea of Rust (C. Robert Cargill)

January 22, 2018

Nick and I have got our debating hats on again… this time, we’re chatting about C. Robert Cargill’s latest book, Sea of Rust. We both LOVED Dreams and Shadows, so we had high hopes when we started reading this one.

Here’s a quick overview of what the book’s about, followed by our spirited discussion!


What's it all about, then? 


An exploration of the fate of mankind, told through the perspective of a robot.

Brittle is a caregiver robot in a wildly bleak, dystopian future. She’s one tough cookie, who’s fairly unreliable and violent to boot, and through her tense day-to-day life, the reader gradually discovers that robots have wiped out the human race, and that she’s being hunted down by another robot for her body parts.


As for the robots in general, they may have won the war against humans, but they’ve also brought about their own gradual demise, mainly through the rise of OWIs - One World Intelligence 'bots' with god-like aspirations. It’s Brittle’s job to survive this harsh new world, and to tell the story of how humanity was annihilated.


Nick: So, we’re back again for another fierce debate, Lucy!

Lucy: Hopefully not so fierce this time, because overall, we both enjoyed this one.

Nick: Perhaps me more than you, I think. You personally preferred Dreams and Shadows, right?

Lucy: I think so – you know me, anything that’s features dark and twisted fairy tales is always a favourite. However, I thought there was much to enjoy in Sea of Rust. Shall we start with the whole concept? I mean, dystopian futures have been done to death, but I felt this novel was quite fresh and exciting.

Nick: I totally agree. I loved the fact that the entire cast were robots – that was a daring approach to take, and I think it paid off. They were frightening, unfeeling and brutal, but as a reader, I still found myself gunning for them, and that’s an impressive thing to carry off. I also thought the world-building was immense – Cargill’s decaying, destroyed earth is vivid and unsettling.

Lucy: Yes, that’s one of the author’s strong points in general, he really knows how to paint a picture with words. I particularly loved the Madlands; this unpredictable, dangerous place – very evocative!

Nick: All the little towns were wonderfully portrayed, and a really strong part of the novel. What did you think about Brittle, the protagonist?

Lucy: (laughs) It took me a while to realise she was meant to be female, her whole ‘tone’ felt masculine; but then, she is a robot!

Nick: I know what you mean, but I enjoyed her whole ‘bad-ass’ personality, it made discovering her softer side later in the book far more poignant.

Lucy: Her relationship with Mercer, the other caregiver bot, was fantastic too. For those who haven’t yet read this book, Mercer and Brittle are both after the same body parts to stay alive (they’re rusting and falling apart, basically), and this adds real tension to their relationship.

Nick: Speaking of characters, I loved the Cheshire King. The idea of this completely insane leader, in charge of a bunch of fried-up, crazy robots – it had echoes of The Joker, or similar deranged characters. He was definitely one of the strongest aspects of the book.

Lucy: I enjoyed him too, though would have liked to have seen more of him. I adore big, bold characters.

Nick: So, what didn’t work so well in the book, do you think?

Lucy: I struggled with the pace a little. It was so action-packed that it was quite bewildering at times; I felt a few slower sections would have provided more variety, and given us a chance to emotionally engage with the characters a bit more.

Nick: I agree to a lesser extent – perhaps it takes away the subtlety a little bit. But for me, I like a book that’s packed with action; it makes for an exciting read! I felt that the fast pace made it almost like a movie.

Lucy: That’s partly to do with his great descriptions though; every moment you can really visualise.

Nick: Yeah, but also it’s the fact that the plot grabs you by the shoulders and pulls you along at a cracking pace.

Lucy: And there’s depth to this novel too, I think that’s important to emphasise. For me, the pace was too frenetic, but I appreciated the back-story, the slow demise of mankind, and the bigger questions – for example, were humans right or wrong to create robots, and were their subsequent actions justifiable?

Nick: I think the book also asks the biggest question of all – what is it to be human? The robots have all achieved humanity in one way or another, so are they any different to us?

Lucy: Now we’re getting into deep and philosophical territory, Nick!

Nick: I know, eek! But it’s great when a book makes you think about stuff like this.

Lucy: Yes, I agree. Nick, you clearly loved it, so I’m guessing it’s a big fat five stars from you?

Nick: It certainly is. 5 / 5 stars, and C. Robert Cargill, if you could make Sea of Rust into a movie, I’d be much obliged.

Lucy: It’s 4 / 5 stars from me – a really enjoyable, clever read, with just a few minor pacing problems that left my head spinning a little. But for the record, I’d also like to watch the movie.

Nick: Any excuse to leave the house, eh?

Lucy: You bet!

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