Saturn's Children is dedicated to the memories of Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. Heinlein gets name-checked in the book, as does John Scalzi and Richard Dawkins.
Saturn's Children imagines a time after we humans have mysteriously gone extinct -- leaving only our intelligent, but enslaved, robots behind. Freya 47 is one such robot, a courtesan designed ultimately to pleasure her male customers; hard-wired into her brain is a lust for her One True Love. Which would be fine, except that he, along with the whole human race, stopped existing many years before Freya's creation. She and her sister sibs (Freya, and her sisters, are all based upon the template matriarch of a robot called Rhea) are left with nothing to do except explore the galaxy. Many of them will kill themselves from despair. Others are simply incredibly bored.
An aristocracy, of sorts, has developed -- the robots with enough wealth and hired thugs control those without money and thugs. Of course, even the aristos aren't really free. They don't admit the fact, but show them a live Creator and they'd be on their knees before them. Which is one reason why the aristos, amongst others, are keen to keep their Creators dead, despite the technology of the black labs, which are capable of producing "pink goo" -- flesh. But anyone with a live, and tractable, Creator could wield enormous power, and perhaps even enslave the galaxy...
Which is why it falls to a sex robot, and an organisation of butlers, to stop them, getting very confused, and often aroused, in the process...
I'm not sure why I find this book so hard to review. I liked it a lot. It was perhaps the funniest of Stross' latest books, especially at the beginning -- to the extent that I was reading out whole passages to people, leaving them in hysterics from Freya's pessimistic view of space travel and other such things. Freya is our narrator, and the story is told in first-person, so it's natural that she be the most fleshed out (un-pun not intended), but I also enjoyed the characterisation of the butler Jeeves'. With no masters to serve, their organisation has begun to dabble in politics, and it's clear that not all Jeeves' are the same -- some are cold, and cruel, and not at all worried about doing nasty back-stabbing things to any sex robots that cross their path.
There is a fair amount of sex in Saturn's Children -- Freya's frequently penetrated, in every available orifice, by no end of robot devices -- even space-ships. It's no fête champêtre for her, though, as she's also frequently left in horrible places to die or lose multiple limbs. I was never afraid that she was going to die the final death (which reminds me, unavoidably of the Doctor Who spoof: The Curse of Fatal Death). After all, it's clear from the fact that she's telling these events, that she survived them -- but despite this, the pace was, for the most part, kept fast and entertainingly so.
For the most part. The extremely large amounts of travel worked because of Freya's often funny attitudes towards it, and the fact that she could go into slowtime and arrive several years later after four or five pages. Towards the end, though, the blend of mystery spy novel and cyberpunk got a bit confusing. Especially as, this being robots, after all, some characters ended up being two or three different people at once -- same names, different people (except in some cases where multiple personalities were developed...), with different agendas. In a normal cloak and dagger tale, it would be very obvious that the nasty janitor with the distinctive pox would be to blame. In Saturn's Children, it could, and probably is, anyone and everyone, and I found myself overwhelmed a bit towards the end.
Nevertheless, Charles Stross has created a good story in Saturn's Children. The muddled and confusing parts were more than balanced out by the extremely funny bits, and for once, instead of the cold, heartless efficiency of our robot overlords, I found myself caring for a robot who was more human than her dead Creators.
[I should point out here, as I didn't in my original review for the webjournal, The Book Swede, that I think Stross is something of an acquired taste; you'd be best to start on one of the "Laundry" books!]