This is a science fiction book I read about the year 2000. The main premise that I vaguely remember was that humans were now fighting wars with robots by proxy BUT there were still normal humans in the war zones trying to survive.

I don't have much more to go on I'm sorry - but the main scene/piece that sticks out to me, was there were these "burrowing" robots that were the "hunter-killers" for the non-robot humans - I think the characters referred to these robots as Ferrets, Stoats or Weasels. I think at the end they made it to the control room or something, and realised it was all some big game of real life chess so to speak that they were caught in the middle of.

English book, unsure if series. Possible female main character but unsure.

marked as duplicate by Otis, Community Feb 22 at 0:27

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Possibly Shade's Children (1997) by Garth Nix?

From Goodreads:

In a futuristic urban wasteland, evil Overlords have decreed that no child shall live a day past his fourteenth birthday. On that Sad Birthday, the child is the object of an obscene harvest resulting in the construction of a machine like creature whose sole purpose is to kill.

The mysterious Shade — once a man, but now more like the machines he fights — recruits the few children fortunate enough to escape. With luck, cunning, and skill, four of Shade's children come closer than any to discovering the source of the Overlords' power — and the key to their downfall. But the closer the children get, the more ruthless Shade seems to become ...

This Amazon review mentions a game of chess and Ferrets:

Puberty is rough, but in Garth Nix's science fiction thriller, it's deadly. You see, the "Change" has taken place in this once-familiar world and children who reach the "Sad Birthday" (that's 14 to you) are harvested for their brains, which in turn are placed in creatures used for war games by Overlords. These unlucky children go off to the Meat Factory before having their brains implanted in either a Screamer, a Tracker, a Ferret, a Myrmidon, or a Winger, the beasts used by Overlords in their sprawling and violent battles. For these seven Overlords (four men, three women), it's like a giant chess game, and the pawns are the children their creatures hunt down.

Found by searching this site for [story-identification] ferrets which returned, among others, Story Identification: Human Resistance to Conquering Aliens, the description of which had battles fought by proxy and robots:

This is a story I read back in the late 1990's or early 2000's. It was a sci-fi story and the plot was centered in a city. I believe it was on Earth. There were different tribes of Aliens that fought each other through proxy. Each tribe had augmented humans in different ways and used the humans to fight each other.

I believe there were also robots or cyborgs of some sort.

  • Truth be told, part matches, part doesn't match. Timeline, YA, names, "chess", check. Burrowing, not so much... – Jenayah Feb 22 at 0:17
  • 1
    Thank you for this, I have followed those links to the Garth Nix story, and it is this story after reading a brief synopsis! Thank you so much. Turns out I just needed better google fu. :) – Raichuss Feb 22 at 0:21
  • @Raichuss you're welcome, enjoy the re-read! And if you want some better Google-Fu for story-ID... there are some indications here! :) (disclaimer, I wrote some of it) – Jenayah Feb 22 at 0:23
  • For the sake of completeness, [story-identification] ferrets did the trick, but before that, I went, in order, through [story-identification] stoat, [story-identification] robots chess and [story-identification] weasel. Power of the asker remembering the right keywords :) – Jenayah Feb 22 at 0:51

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