Twisted Metal by Tony Ballantyne (The Robot Wars 1)

This is my first encounter with Tony Ballantyne. It is a good one. There are a lot of innovative and interesting up and coming British SF writers around. I wish I could afford to go to England every year. London have so many extensive book shops. Handling a book, browsing shelf after shelf makes it so much easier to find those new ones you would have missed online. I am much more adventurous with real books than I am online. I guess it is the sheer number of choices there that limit me to the ones I already know. Now back to the story.

It is a world inhabited by humanoid robots, female and male robots. Baby robots are created when a female robot twists the wire from a male robot into a mind for a newborn and it is inserted into a baby body. The twisting of a mind decide personality, fidelity and talent.

It is a world that has lost its past.

It is a world where metal is the most valuable resource.

It is a world at war. The soldiers of Artemis sweep across the land, conquering city after city, killing or converting every robot to their new philosophy.

The robots of Turing City stand in their way. Robots that believe that they are more than metal. We get to follow Karel, a strange angry robot refugee and his wife Susan trough the book. Karelare captured and conscripted into The Artimis Army and sent to the frozen lands in the north. The north are also said to be the home of the legendary ‘Book of Robots’. It might reveal the real history of the world and maybe also reveal the truth about their minds.

Susan is sent to Artimis city for ‘breeding’. She has a connection to the ‘Book of Robots’ and to some kind of secret order/society with a small circle inside a larger circle as a symbol.

We also get to follow Olam another conscripted soldier in Artemis Army, this one from Wien. The city the Atrimis sacked before Turing. As he transforms from docile servant to psychopathic killing machine.

Kavanis the new head of the Artimis Army. Eleanor is his second in command. Kavanis a true believer in the Artimis philosophy and he fears no one.

Maoco Ois one of Turings City’s guard robots. A robot so perfect, that it has little or no connection with ordinary robot motivations. After the city falls he finds new purpose as he starts a resistance movement.

This novel has an interesting story to tell. It is about choice and it should tell us something about our own humanity. The world comes to life and you identify with the characters. I usually have a problem with this many main characters but Tony pulls it off.

I read somewhere that this is the first book in a series. Then I guess the next one will be when they meet the visitors from the stars. I might say that it also works stand alone.

Edit: The second part of Robot Wars Blood and Iron will be out in April 2010 according to tonyballantyne.com