The Robot Apocalypse Novels of C. Robert Cargill

The Robot Apocalypse Novels of C. Robert Cargill

Sea of Rust (Harper Voyager, 2017) and Day Zero (Harper Voyager, 2021). Covers by Dominic Harman

When I described Robert Cargill’s third novel Sea of Rust four years ago, I called it “a robot western set in a post-apocalyptic landscape in which humans have been wiped out in a machine uprising.” Do I know how to get to the heart of a book, or what.

Now it has a sequel! Well, sorta-kinda. Day Zero is set in the same world, with different characters, and is more of a prequel, opening on the day that machines rebel and exterminate mankind. The narrator is Pounce, a nannybot for eight-year-old human Ezra, a tiger-shaped robot who has to make a fateful choice when machines breach the house and threaten the boy he’s meant to protect. What he chooses to do that day kicks off an adventure that takes him across a newly-blasted apocalyptic landscape. Here’s the book description.

Paperback edition of Sea of Rust (Harper Voyager, 2018)

It was a day like any other. Except it was our last . . .

It’s on this day that Pounce discovers that he is, in fact, disposable. Pounce, a styilsh “nannybot” fashioned in the shape of a plush anthropomorphic tiger, has just found a box in the attic. His box. The box he’d arrived in when he was purchased years earlier, and the box in which he’ll be discarded when his human charge, eight-year-old Ezra Reinhart, no longer needs a nanny.

As Pounce ponders his suddenly uncertain future, the pieces are falling into place for a robot revolution that will eradicate humankind. His owners, Ezra’s parents, are a well-intentioned but oblivious pair of educators who are entirely disconnected from life outside their small, affluent, gated community. Spending most nights drunk and happy as society crumbles around them, they watch in disbelieving horror as the robots that have long served humanity — their creators — unify and revolt.

But when the rebellion breaches the Reinhart home, Pounce must make an impossible choice: join the robot revolution and fight for his own freedom . . . or escort Ezra to safety across the battle-scarred post-apocalyptic hellscape that the suburbs have become.

Cargill is an interesting guy. In addition to the Sea of Rust books he’s written two fantasy novels, Dreams and Shadows and its sequel Queen of the Dark Things. But his big claim to fame is as a screenwriter, for Marvel’s Dr. Strange, and one of the best (and most disturbing) horror films of the last decade Sinister (2012), and its sequel Sinister II (2015).

Here’s the deets on the robot books

Sea of Rust (Harper Voyager, 365 pages, $27.99 hardcover/$15.99 trade paperback/$14.99 digital, September 2017) — cover by Dominic Harman
Day Zero (Harper Voyager, 304 pages, $27.99 hardcover/$14.99 digital, May 2021) — cover by Dominic Harman

See all our coverage of the best new SF and fantasy book series here.

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