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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative, Intelligent and Entertaining Sci-Fi
Charles Stross has crafted a deeply thoughtful, elegant and many layered science fiction tale. The story is a fantastic mix of traditional sci-fi concepts (there are sly nods to things such as "Ghost in the Shell", "Do Androids dream electric sheep), coupled with fresh perspectives, new ideas and slick narrative and dialogue.

The most interesting aspect of this...
Published on 20 July 2009 by Kuma

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Was I disappointed...
I think this book suffered from a a back drop that was too colourful, I kept wanting questions answered about the post human socieites and culture that were not really relevant to the story being told. Freya's story is tragic because she cannot fulfill the purpose that she was designed for becasue there are no Human Males and she has to find a new path through her life...
Published on 15 Oct. 2009 by Pamela Jane


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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative, Intelligent and Entertaining Sci-Fi, 20 July 2009
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This review is from: Saturn's Children (Paperback)
Charles Stross has crafted a deeply thoughtful, elegant and many layered science fiction tale. The story is a fantastic mix of traditional sci-fi concepts (there are sly nods to things such as "Ghost in the Shell", "Do Androids dream electric sheep), coupled with fresh perspectives, new ideas and slick narrative and dialogue.

The most interesting aspect of this novel is that it is set after humanity's extinction, and is a tale of robotic society that survives the extinction. This offers a refreshing and new perspective on the traditional human/robot relationship, with robots having to come to terms with the emotional fall out of there being no humans, as well as tapping into an interesting trend in science fiction of looking at non-human propogation of human culture (there are some amusing comments about contemporary philosophy within the text).

With regards to the story, I am unwilling to discuss it too much in case it spoils the novel for potential readers. However for those readers who might be worried about Freya's (the main character) role as a courtesan, I would say that this is well handled and works well within the story, if anything it provides a useful point of empathy for a reader by providing a "more" human robot with emotions. The real delight for any reader will be from the well written narrative and some snappy dialogue which works to create a vivid, elegant and tangible sci-fi universe.

All in all I would recommend this work to anyone interested in reading a good, enjoyable and different sci-fi adventure.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Updated retro sf, rather complex plot, 29 Oct. 2009
By 
A. J. Poulter "AP" (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
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Set in a future when humanity is extinct, intelligent robots carry on the task of spreading civilisation, having colonised the solar system and sent ships to nearby stars. These are not soulless Asimovian robots as their minds are copies of archetypal personalities, created by conditioning using human experiences (some extremely unpleasant). This conditioning also inculcates basic emotions and needs: for example, robots can enjoy a drink or two (though not of alcohol) and can experience the pleasures of sex when they 'link up'.

For control purposes, humans made serving them the deepest desire of a robot. Now humans are gone, 'aristo' robots use this servitude capacity to enslave other robots. Their greatest fear is of 'pink goo' - animal cells of any kind that could, in theory, be used to rebuild one of the lost human 'Creators'. A human, could, simply by their presence, control any and all robots using their inbuilt servitude routines.

The novel follows Freya, one of a defunct concubine archetype, cloned from the original called Rhea, who gets involved in something illegal that involves smuggling pink goo. Freya is given the 'soul chip' (memories) of another of her archetype, Juliette, and starts to be influenced by Juliette's experiences. The abilities to swap soul chips (and thus identities) and to blank parts of soul ships complicates the plot no end. Starting on Venus, the action takes Freya to Mercury, then Mars, Callisto and finally to 'Heinleingrad', on distant Eris, as aristo factions like the Black Talon, and robot archetypes, especially one modelled on the Jeeves character, struggle over the ultimate prize...

Ironies abound. Humans, as their creators, are like gods to robots. Robot society is as venal and despotic as that of their creators. In their restless journeying (space travel for robots is uncomfortable and slow but usually not fatal) they are driven by the expansionist dreams of their creators, as robots have no purpose of their own. Despite 50 years of AI research, 'intelligent' robots are still as much a figment of the imagination as warp drive. While on the surface this novel is a romp built from retreaded components from earlier writers, underneath it raises issues about self-hood, freedom and the purpose of life, none of which robots really have.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious at turns, interesting always, 6 Sept. 2008
This review is from: Saturn's Children (Hardcover)
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!]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Was I disappointed..., 15 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Saturn's Children (Paperback)
I think this book suffered from a a back drop that was too colourful, I kept wanting questions answered about the post human socieites and culture that were not really relevant to the story being told. Freya's story is tragic because she cannot fulfill the purpose that she was designed for becasue there are no Human Males and she has to find a new path through her life and that takes her on a long and dangerous journey...The story kept me interested to find out the end but it read like a spin off novel where there was another series in this 'universe' that had gone before whereby the required background cultural information would be there to help you along.

I like reading Charles Stross' offerings and this book will not stop me from reading his work in the future but it perhaps not the best choice for a first purchase of his work as he has written much better for example Glasshouse.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should have been a series., 7 Nov. 2013
By 
I. Baxter "the wingnut" (lincs uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Saturn's Children (Paperback)
We've had a lot of "people as robots" stuff lately, and this takes it the final mile and gives us "robots as people". The human race having accidentally shuffled off and left the Solar System to it's greatest creations, the robots are still striving to live in a bizarre imitation of their masters' ways. Being robots, nobody stays dead or alive for long, and re-lifeing and morphing are just a part of the strange environment here created. I was sufficiently immersed by the time it had ended, that I was half a mind to search Amazon for the next bit, till it soaked in that there wasn't one. There should have been! And while your at it Mr Stross, do us another "Laundry Files" book as well please, a real full size dead tree job, not an e-book,odd short story, rpg, or anything else but a new complete novel. Ta!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars genius... denied., 21 Jun. 2010
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This review is from: Saturn's Children (Paperback)
Saturn's Children is a story set in a brilliantly imagined, immersive and well described reality. By the end of the first twenty-or-so pages I found myself fully buying-into a world in which humans no longer exist but the system of automatons they created continues (just about) within the legal structure created by humans and bearing the instincts and programming designed to serve humans. For instance, a robot cannot own itself, nor anything else. A limited company can own goods however, hence to be "free" a robot must set up and maintain a limited company which legally owns itself. A rich robot can therefore pelt the company of a poorer robot with nuisance lawsuits until the free robot's funds are depleted and the company folds, at which point the body and mind of the free robot is a commodity open to seizure by the administrator. A robot is also a slave to its programming - the main character for instance (no spoilers here beyond what you'll read on the rear cover) is effectively a automaton sex doll and programmed to love her master without question. However, with humans extinct and the beloved "master" never to materialise she is permanently depressed and lacking purpose, whilst at the same time tormented and diverted by the twinges of instinct activated by the presence of human-like fellow automatons. At the same time as lamenting this lack or purpose she struggles with the acknowledgement that her free will is only granted as a result of humans being extinct - should a master have existed for her, she would have been effectively enslaved to him.

So, the first half of the book is very, very good. Like good enough that your mind continues to roam through this universe for hours after you put the book down. Problem - the story sucks after the first half, and the ending is thoroughly unsatisfying. So many possible scenarios are set up... and none really delivered. I can't say more without spoilers, and hopefully you'll disagree anyway. Is it worth reading? Yes, but curb your expectations.

Now a sequel... that could be interesting. The reality is already created and it is indeed very impressive. If Stross were to allocate all his creativity to the storyline of a second novel set in this same reality, that might be very impressive.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A different and quite fun read, 28 Nov. 2013
By 
CjW "chris" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Saturn's Children (Kindle Edition)
Good sci-fi stuff, a good and interesting read with some humour which is always welcomed.

Interesting ideas and well exploited - I did like the development of the technology as explained- you come across some of the enhancements as a side comments and then you realise how pertinent that become - I like that.

I have read a few of Mr Stross' books and have like them all.

It reads well on a Kindle Paperwhite and is hard to put down - which a lot of other sci-fi tales cannot boast.

Good read and well worth the cash.

Buy it
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3.0 out of 5 stars An effective space opera with plenty of clever futurology, 9 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Saturn's Children (Kindle Edition)
Some time after the human race has died out, it has been succeeded by the machines it left behind. Artificial intelligences and androids that are smarter and faster than any human have expanded their influence across the solar sytem and are starting to nudge at interstellar space. Yet, designed to be servile to their 'masters', machine civilisation is deeply disfunctional - organised into a brutal feudal system. Freya, one of a line of long lived courtesan androids finds herself the victim of generational grudges and system-wide politics as she tries to earn enough for her transport home.

I came to this novel whilst trying to find something to read after Iain M. Banks. With a similar scope, a familiar-yet-alien society and a host of morally ambiguous characters, it's cut from the same cloth. There a lots of interesting ideas extracted from the concept of a post-people society, particularly one which is (effectively) immortal. That these are executed in an exciting way whilst remaining within touching distance of theoretical physics is a credit to Mr. Stross.

So much effort is put into world building that characterisation suffers. Freya's character arc stutters and most of the supporting cast feel a tad thin - character development often seems forced to fit the plot rather than driving it.

Nevertheless, it's an effective space opera with an efficient plot and plenty of fascinating futurology.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read, 18 Dec. 2011
By 
W. Black "Bill Black" (Scarborough UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Saturn's Children (Paperback)
This is an odd one, although well worth a read.

First of all the protagonist is, let's be honest about this, an intelligent sex toy for boys. This leads the story into some very odd places indeed. She's also, like many of Charles Stross's heroes and heroines, not too good at seeing trouble coming, which leaves him describing those 'oh s#*t' moments he loves so much.

The setting is a post human solar system now inhabited by intelligent robots, with all the attendant problems you'd imagine that would cause.

The whole thing is an intricate and complicated romp around the solar system by a series of exotic means of transport, most of which read like the distillation of the results of a 3:00am conversation between a group of engineering undergraduates at an all night party...

The plot switches from 'I Robot' to 'The Maltese Falcon' to 'PG Wodehouse' to a straight spy spoof with little time for the reader to catch their breath between bouts of kinky robot sex and some excellent action set pieces in order to work out what's actually going on, indeed you're going to need to reread this one to pick up when stuff actually happens, which can be a problem when the characters can change their looks and identities at a moment's notice.

All in all an enjoyable romp with ideas that could have probably been stretched to three novels by a less prolific author. As it is it works well and kept me gripped for a couple of days.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Robot Development, 29 Sept. 2008
By 
This review is from: Saturn's Children (Hardcover)
In reading Saturn's Children I enjoyed how Charles Stross explained the motivations behind the wants and needs of the robot Freya.He,using his background as a software engineer takes Heinlein and Asimov vision of robots and gives them a whole series of future development as we see their wants,needs and desires.All of these are subject to the programming inflicted on them by the Creators,ie humans.His humor bursts through the book and as earlier reviews indicate,well worth a read.
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Saturn's Children
Saturn's Children by Charles Stross
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