SPSFC: Steel Guardian by Cameron Coral

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I knew I was going to like this from the first chapter. It’s very rare when my connection with a character is instant, but I adored Block from the very start. He has such a clear distinct voice that hooked on my heart strings. He’s a CleanerBot AI and he has this Jeeves like personality, almost. His purpose is to clean, and all this poor AI wants to do is to find a hotel to settle down and maintain. The problem is that humans and AI are at war with one another, and no where is safe. He was working at a hotel when the owner was shot and killed along with all of the guests. He goes on the run to try and find somewhere he would be left alone, but what he finds instead is a baby. Human kids are rare, babies even more so. The baby was being kept in an AI incubator, but when Block arrives there are militants not far behind and the incubator AI basically forces Block to take the baby.

Block knows not a thing about human children and knows that in his hands she will die. So, he buys a woman at an AI slavery auction and tries to get her to take the baby. The woman, Nova, wants absolutely nothing to do with kids. To his dismay, his internal information about human female maternity instincts were not accurate, lol. He tries to force her to stay, but when he realizes that he can’t he tries to bribe her instead. He had access to the hotel’s financial institutions and has access to tens of thousands of dollars that he uses as a bribe to keep her with him and the baby until they reach New Denver and can hand kiddo off to someone who is “worthy”.

From there this plot is just breakneck speed. This isn’t a long book and the entire time the main characters are on the run and trying to reach a place called New Denver where AI and humans live together in relative peace. (This is the second Colorado themed book in the semifinals, lol)

I love the friendship that develops between Block and Nova. Block has never had to deal with any one person long term other than the owner of the hotel since the guests all came and went. He doesn’t know how to assess her behavior since she’s hot headed and impulsive. She’s not exactly trust worthy either, since she had to be coerced and then bribed to stay with Block and the baby.

When the book had 30 minutes left on the audio I really wondered if it was going tot be able to wrap up, so much was still happening, I was worried it was going to end abruptly and kill the score. But, it did manage to pull it together and had an ending that was kind of satisfying. It does end on kind of a cliff hanger instead of wrapping everything up. I don’t always gel with those kinds of endings. Leaving some stuff open to keep the reader interested in the next book is one thing, but to leave the main plot hanging irks me.

I have one really stupid gripe with the book, and it came up twice. For some reason, rabies has gone rampant in the wild animal population. This doesn’t make much sense to me since since it’s so lethal that if there were a 50% chance of an animal having rabies out in the wild…. the ecosystem would utterly collapse. That said, the animal that they encountered twice in this story that supposedly had a chance of having rabies was a POSSUM.

I’m going to lay down some possum facts, which includes the fact that they almost never contract rabies.

“However, opossums are downright indomitable in another way – they have an innate ability to stave off many diseases and toxins. They are nearly impervious to rabies because their body temperature is too low to host the rabies virus. They also rarely catch Lyme disease from tick bites, and are immune to the stings of honeybees and scorpions, botulism toxin, and snake venom.”

That very silly nitpick aside, I absolutely adored this book. It’s my first five star book of the 2021/2022 SPSFC/SPFBO season!!! <3<3<3 Highly recommended!


  • Plot: 12.5/15
  • Characters: 13/15
  • World Building: 11/15
  • Writing: 13/15
  • Pacing: 13/15
  • Originality: 12/15
  • Enjoyment: 8.5/10

Final Score: 83/100

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