sugoll (sugoll) wrote,

Saturn's Children, by Charles Stross

Freya is a sexbot, made in the image of her Creators with certain specific responses and impulses built in. She's also redundant, her Creators having the bad timing to become extinct as a species before she was even turned on. Into the power vacuum have stepped some of the other designs of robot, those with less built-in empathy, who think nothing of slave-chipping their peers and exploiting the command-overrides the Creators were so careful to install. It's one of these aristos that Freya pisses off, while working her mundane job, and has to flee. She takes on a courier job while gives her passage off-planet, and in doing so, falls into the middle of an on-going covert battle: some aristos aren't content with being the new elite - they have even bigger plans...

This is, I'm told, Stross's homage to late-period Heinlein, so I'm completely in the dark. See above under "Sugoll hasn't read anything classic." I liked some aspects of this book, like the concept of graveyards: the Creators could only create sentient machines by reproducing their own brains, in hardware. Easy to make, but decades to train into something useful. So the Creators added "soul chips," which would record backups of a skilled robot, and allow another instance of the robot to incorporate those skills. And memories - when Freya's siblings are killed, their soul chips are passed around their siblings, so that their experiences won't be forgotten. It takes time, though, so this gives Stross a nice device for what amounts to an amnesiac recovering through flashes of previous experience.

On the other hand, I got thrown quite a bit by this book too. Freya's treated as a freak by her peers, since most robots were designed with function in mind, and that function wasn't getting Creators feeling all warm and fuzzy in the nether regions, so they're more stubby, more compact. I'm largely description-blind, as a reader, so there are certain plot-points that ride on this (Freya and siblings look like humans, while most robots don't) that completely passed me by. Thus, things flagged early in the book didn't make any sense to me at the final reveal, because I'd been visualising everything differently. Sigh.

There's the usual Stross-isms, including talking about the realities of interplanetary space-flight and the engineering problems of long-term habitation on Venus. But overall, I never really engaged with this to the same level that I did with any of his previous novels. Plus, I was vaguely hoping that this would be another book in the Singularity Sky/Iron Sunrise sequence (it's not).

So, okay, just not for me.
Tags: books, charles stross, sf
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