Day Zero – C Robert Cargill

“The first day of the end of the world started entirely without incident.”

Day Zero is told from the point of view of Pounce, a high-end ‘nanny bot’, shaped like a tiger and designed to be his charge’s toy, caregiver, and best friend rolled into one. Said charge is eight-year-old Ezra, and so far things have been going pretty well.

Then two things happen to shake the status quo. First, Pounce finds his box – the one he was sold to the family in – and realises that he is an object not a person, and thus disposable at some point. The second is the end of the world.

The rest of the story details the fight for survival across a wealthy suburb turned war zone as the robots turn against their human masters. Pounce must choose between joining the revolution that would grant him full personhood, or protecting Ezra. And either way, someone is going to want them dead.

I’ve been meaning to read Sea of Rust for ages, and haven’t yet, but I can confirm that this book works perfectly well as a stand-alone. It seems like a relatively straightforward survival story, taking place over just a few days, but if you peel back the layers then there’s just such a lot being said about what it means to be ‘a thinking thing’. Using Pounce’s point of view really lifted this book into something quite special, allowing for a fantastic mix of deep, sci-fi ideas and all out action.

I can totally see this being turned into a movie at some point, perhaps with Vin Diesel voicing the CGI tiger robot fighting its way through the burning wreckage of suburbanite humanity. Terminator meets Tigger! In the meantime, it’s a very well-written, strongly told tale of AI going wrong – and also very right. Recommended, and now I get to go and find out – in Sea of Rust – what happens after the end of the world.

NetGalley eARC: 448 pages / 30 chapters (numbered in binary, natch :))
First published: 2021
Series: prequel to Sea of Rust
Read from 4th-10th May 2021

My rating: 9/10

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