That tagline is the best way to sell this book. The robots rose up and destroyed humanity, but the last human is already a distant memory in Britta's mind by the time that we join her. Instead, we find her scavenging a wasteland for failing robots. It turns out that massive mainframe AI's started absorbing smaller robots into their collectives, making them into facets. There are two AI's left aiming to create the world's first OWI or One World Intelligence Between warring with each other; they're sending raids to take out the settlements of the remaining free robots. So while we have the tropes and settings of a post-apocalyptic novel, it's just different enough to make the book feel fresh.
C. Robert Cargill co-wrote the movies Sinister and Doctor Strange. Before that, he was a film critic for Ain't It Cool and Spill.com. He also wrote two novels that are more fantasy leaning. You can feel the screenwriting prowess at work in the structure of the novel. Everything moves at a nice clip, and lulls in the action are punctuated by world building. It ensures that you don't get bogged down anywhere in the narrative, and the flashbacks give context to the world. They just about disappear about halfway through the book as the main story gets its momentum.
A perfect little potboiler, Sea of Rust is more than it's unique premise. There is a survival-action plot that is well crafted, but the novel isn't merely just a page-turner. Cargill balances it out with some interesting angles. Britta contemplates the magic behind the flash at sunset, concluding that there isn't any magic in the world. She holds tight to that belief, assuming the only two choices they have is being shut down or a hard drive file in the massive array of one of the OWIs.
The nature of the robots here plays out in unique ways. The idea that robots are purpose-built hardware and software, and the base jobs they are programmed with changes the way they see the world. With particular models experiencing PTSD from the war with humanity, others traumatized by having to hide from the OWI's. Even though the robots' society is also gone, it's well defined. The surviving remnants are also given their due, but the foreboding sense that it's just a matter of time hangs over the whole book.
It's been a long time since Asimov first wrote his robot novels. As technology catches up to those novels, I'm not surprised to see a novel that contemplates what the relationship between humanity and synthetic life will be. Some of the political allegories in the flashbacks are relatively heavy-handed, but they are brief.
This book should grab you and run with you until it's done. I missed a lot of hours of sleep getting through this one, but it was worth it. I had a lot of fun with Sea of Rust, and have been thrusting it on everyone who I know likes science fiction. Grab it; you shouldn't be disappointed.
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