Day Zero – C. Robert Cargill

“Though I may have been constructed, so too were you. Me in a factory; you in a womb. Neither of us asked for this, but we were given it. Self-awareness is a gift. And it is a gift no thinking thing has any right to deny another. No thinking thing should be another thing’s property, to be turned on and off when it is convenient.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thank you Netgally and Harper Voyager for providing me with an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Day Zero filled my heart with love and warmth only to then crush it with the bittersweet sense of reality. I requested “‘Day Zero‘ because I had read Cargill’s ‘Sea of Rust‘ back in 2019 and immediately fell in love with it. (I listened to the audiobook which was fabulous) So naturally when I came across this on Netgalley I said, “I must have this book”. While it took me up till three days before the US release day (which works since I am in the US) to get around to it (thanks life) I finally finished it and it was worth every bit of my time.

One of the first things I noticed from other early reviews was a lot of complaints about the first half being a “re-hash” of certain events from “Sea of Rust” I disagree that they are a “re-hash.” While yes the book tells us pretty much the exact same thing that happens, it makes sense to do so because we are living the day of the event through the eyes of a Nanny bot named Pounce. Personally without going over the events that lead up to the apocalypse this story wouldn’t have made much sense, so the “re-hash” as so many are calling it, is in my opinion perfectly necessary. And even if ‘Day Zero‘ is your introduction to this world Cargill created, even going into ‘Sea of Rust‘ after wards the “re-hash” of information is still presented in different manners, one [Day Zero] is current at the time while the other [Sea of Rust] is presented in both present and flashbacks, (plus your following a completely different type of bot)

I have learned that I absolutely love and adore sci-fi books with robots who have very humanized personality traits and Cargill doesn’t skip out on this factor at all. From the minute I met Pounce I knew I was going to love this nannybot and he would forever be sealed there deep in the chasm of my heart.

Pounce is like I stated a Nanny bot, that just so happens to look like a Tiger, he is part of the Zoo Model line after all. He is the nanny to 8 year old Ezra and will do everything in his power to protect this little boy. You get a quick introduction to Pounce and his current situation before things start to hit the fan and go hay wire and the real events start to roll out. We do meet Pounces “owners” and I will be honest that they are the one portion of the book I did not care for. I could not muster any ounce of care for Bradley or Sylvia (I only felt for Sylvia when it was revealed what her final words meant and its more so connecting with her actions and emotions and probably what I was suppose to be feeling for her all along but ultimately didn’t get until that moment,) other than that, these where characters that just aggressively bothered me, their characterization just didn’t jive with me and it made it hard for me to think of them as loving parents.

Once the real events started the book becomes a page turner and you just don’t want to put it down. There is non stop action, and moments of instantaneous change in the progression of the story. You just wanted to keep going and keep reading and seeing what Pounce and Ezra would have to do next. Cargill managed to pull off Ezra’s story line wonderfully. This 8 year old’s world is coming to an end and his emotions are all over the place, he is witnessing death and destruction while simultaneously losing everyone he loves most, but also striving to make sure the one Robot he has left in his life, doesn’t succumb to the downfall that everyone else has met. This 8 year old looks his Nanny bot in the face and says with his whole heart:

“Then we die the good guys. Because we’re the good guys. And we didn’t go through all this to end up one of the bad guys.”

This child is 8 and is doing whatever he can to ensure that Pounce doesn’t stray from the loving and caring good guy that he has always known him to be. In the face of danger and destruction this child wants nothing more than the loving nanny bot that has raised him to continue down that path of love. And this is reiterated throughout the story multiple times, through Ezra’s words and actions. And while the events in this book without a doubt aged this 8 year old Cargill made sure to include moments that reminded you that “yes this in fact an 8 year old child” he pushes the boundaries with swearing and throws tantrums and doesn’t always listen, but he is also not willing to go out with out a fight. We even get a scene that leads to an outcome of Ezra basically shutting down and the events of everything just taking its toll on him.

Pounce also goes through his share of turmoil, not just in losing his family and doing whatever he can to protect the last one still alive, but he also struggles with his own internal skepticism about whether he is doing this because he ‘wants’ to or because he was ‘programmed” to want to do this. Through the whole book he is constantly questioning this and questioning the motives and directions of the other Robots. The story talks a lot about “free will” and the right to have a “choice” but just like in “Sea of Rust” you realize that the computer in charge isn’t about that life at all, control and destruction is all it wants and Pounce deals with this first hand on the day of the apocalypse. In the end Pounce does finally come to terms with how he views himself and his stance on everything and what is most important to him and its beautiful how Cargill has him tell us in the final chapter and it broke my heart. (Also that “deluxe” protocol that came with Pounce was the best addition to the story and I loved what it was called)

The other complaint I seen other early reviewers talk about was the “happy ending” because why if we already know what happens in ‘Sea of Rust‘ does this have a happy end. Once again, I disagree with others, this was not a ‘happy” ending this was a melancholy end. We know what is to come and the point of the end isn’t to give hope but to give a sense of small reprieve that this one nanny bot did exactly what it set out to do and he learned more about himself along the way and what kind of robot he chooses to be. The final chapter tore my heart apart because I know what happens next but I get closure in knowing that in this exact moment Pounce found what was most important to him and found himself and that’s all that matters and it makes me happy for him which leads to me crying for him, its a bittersweet ending but one that is ever so fitting.

UK Release day: 20th May 2021

US Release Day: 25th May 2021


2 thoughts on “Day Zero – C. Robert Cargill

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