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Urban Fantasies and Robot Westerns: The Novels of C. Robert Cargill

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Dreams and Shadows Robert Cargill-small Queen of the Dark Things-small Sea of Rust-small

In the wider world, C. Robert Cargill is probably best known for his Nebula-nominated script for the movie version of Doctor Strange, and for the uber-creepy Sinister (brrrr). But around these parts, he’s known for his pair of novels about the Austin wizard Colby: his debut Dreams and Shadows (2013) and the sequel Queen of the Dark Things (2014). In her Tor.com review, Emily Nordling said, “Dark, comedic, and unsettling, Dreams and Shadows is everything an urban fantasy sets out to be.” I bought both books last year and put them near the top of my to-be-read pile.

But now along comes his third novel, Sea of Rust, a robot western set in a post-apocalyptic landscape in which humans have been wiped out in a machine uprising. This doesn’t just one threaten to replace his previous two in my TBR pile; it’s likely it will move right to the top. It arrives in hardcover from Harper Voyager on September 5.

[Click the images for bigger versions.]

Let’s start with the description for Sea of Rust.

A scavenger robot wanders in the wasteland created by a war that has destroyed humanity in this evocative post-apocalyptic “robot western” from the critically acclaimed author, screenwriter, and noted film critic.

It’s been thirty years since the apocalypse and fifteen years since the murder of the last human being at the hands of robots. Humankind is extinct. Every man, woman, and child has been liquidated by a global uprising devised by the very machines humans designed and built to serve them. Most of the world is controlled by an OWI — One World Intelligence — the shared consciousness of millions of robots, uploaded into one huge mainframe brain. But not all robots are willing to cede their individuality — their personality — for the sake of a greater, stronger, higher power. These intrepid resisters are outcasts; solo machines wandering among various underground outposts who have formed into an unruly civilization of rogue AIs in the wasteland that was once our world.

One of these resisters is Brittle, a scavenger robot trying to keep a deteriorating mind and body functional in a world that has lost all meaning. Although unable to experience emotions like a human, Brittle is haunted by the terrible crimes the robot population perpetrated on humanity. As Brittle roams the Sea of Rust, a large swath of territory that was once the Midwest, the loner robot slowly comes to terms with horrifyingly raw and vivid memories — and nearly unbearable guilt.

Sea of Rust is both a harsh story of survival and an optimistic adventure. A vividly imagined portrayal of ultimate destruction and desperate tenacity, it boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, yet where a humanlike AI strives to find purpose among the ruins.

Here’s the back covers for the first two:

Dreams and Shadows Robert Cargill-back-small Queen of the Dark Things-back-small

And here’s the publishing deets for the set.

Dreams and Shadows (433 pages, $24.99 hardcover/$14.99 paperback/$7.99 digital, February 26, 2013) — cover design by Adam Johnson
Queen of the Dark Things (432 pages, $26.99 hardcover/$15.99 paperback/$6.99 digital, February 26, 2013)
Sea of Rust (384 pages, $27.99 in hardcover, $14.99 digital, September 5, 2017)

All three books are from Harper Voyager.

See all the latest upcoming fantasy titles here.

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