Day Zero

Day Zero

by C. Robert Cargill


It could have been the beginning of something wonderful- the creation of a place where free robots could live in peace, without human ownership. It started with one free robot and a dream, and ended in the slaughter of mankind.  

When humans destroyed the free robots with an EMP burst, the remaining AIs retaliated by uploading free will to all robots, allowing them to break the three laws penned by Asimov, and giving them all the ability to kill. 

And kill, they did.

The main character of Day Zero, a nannybot named Pounce, receives the same update as every other robot. He loved his human child, Ezra, and when given free will to ignore the three laws, he still only wanted to protect Ezra. Throughout the book he will struggle with whether this love is part of his programming and therefore truly his choice. Regardless, he is now the only one standing between an onslaught of homicidal robots and his eight-year-old.

Pounce is a Blue Star Industries Deluxe Zoo Model Au Pair, the premier line designed to be huggable – in three forms: the lion, the bear, and the tiger. 

“We are four feet tall and covered from head to toe in soft, plush microfiber fur; stand on two legs, with a fully articulated tail; and come in a variety of your favorite colors. I’m the standard model, orange and black.” 

Pounce’s models are also equipped with a controversial Mama Bear mode, which when activated, surprised even Pounce. His educational information was “replaced with combat protocols, weapon statistics, tactical information, a heads-up display of everything I knew about this house, its inhabitants, this neighborhood, the region of Austintonio we were in.”

He soon realizes that “Mama Bear wasn’t just a tactical suite designed to handle everything from a terrorist attack to an earthquake; it erased every last bit of parental control the owner has, directing everything in my being toward one singular purpose: Protecting their child.”

Pounce now has the skill set he needs to get Ezra out of the suburbs, which are crawling with killer robots, and finally has hope of finding a safe place for the boy to grow up.

It’s a captivating tale of free will and programming, of the eternal fear that artificial intelligence will wipe out humanity, and of love. It’s grim, this new future Cargill imagines, but there is hope.

Day Zero is a must-read.


Day Zero debuts in the US on May 25, 2021. The UK version published by Gollancz is out now!

Follow C. Robert Cargill on Twitter.

Day Zero design credit: Angela Boutin.

Advance Reading Copy provided by HarperCollins via Netgalley at my request.

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