I'm trying to figure out the name of a science fiction novel. In it there were bands of humans which roamed a world. The world was controlled by intelligent robots or mechanized creatures I think. In it the humans all had suits, which produced different smells to warn the humans about different robot/creatures nearby. In it a particular group was hunted by a very intelligent robot/creature and it made them a deal for freedom in a spaceship. I know that they traveled in wastelands for part of the novel but ended up going to a robot/creature city at some point in the novel. Help please!


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I am pretty sure that Alex K. gave you the right answer. I decided to expand his comment to match it to the elements you were looking for in the story to identify. Funnily enough, a few years back I also wanted to identify this story with pretty much the same memories as you had. I managed to identify the story because I had one more recollection: the hunting robot was called 'wasp' or 'the wasp'.

The book you are referring to is from a the Galactic Center Saga by Gregory Benford and is most probably the third book: "Great Sky River". The books before that in the saga are like a prelude to the story starting in this novel.

Let´s go over your memories, I will add some details that hopefully will facilitate your recognition. In this novel a tribe is trying to survive on a planet, this tribe takes its name from a chess game piece. The world is not very friendly to humans, as everything (not only the planet) is controlled by the mechs, robots with varying levels of intelligence and in many shapes and forms, often dictated by their function. The wasteland part of your memories are probably due to the total disregard of the mechs for all non-useful organics. The world is used by the mechs for industrial purposes at a very large scale and so not very nice for humans.

Humans are seen as pests that disrupt efficiency and are dealt with in that manner: the mech society are sending out pest controlling mechs to kill humans from time to time, but there is no full scale war waged against the humans. Sometimes they need stuff that is available in the mech industrial areas and they organize a raid to get the spare parts for their gear or whatever they need. This is your memory about the humans visiting (actually raiding...) a mech city.

From the story it is clear that they have been surviving for some time now and that they are very dependent on their high tech gear, including weapons and a suit filled with technology, among it facilities to boost and expand their sensorium to better identify mechs (hence your recollection of smells).

After some incidents with less advanced opponents, they become aware they have attracted the attention of one of the more advanced mechs, which they name The Wasp. The Wasp plays around with them like a cat might play with a mouse and hurts them, but does not kill the whole tribe. The Wasp obviously has an agenda beyond the usual 'human killing' and maneuvers them into taking a spaceship somewhere else and go on some kind of quest.

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