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on 26 November 2016
This was a fantastic read, which came as a bit of a surprise as I didn't get on with the few pieces of his that I'd read before. Now I will need to read more of his work. For me good science fiction involves big ideas, it is more than simply setting or technology. This book takes the idea of humanity's legacy once we no longer exists.

The author takes this premise and develops into a rich world. Before our demise we developed robots in our image and they permeate every part of life. After humanity's extinction they continue to live and operate throughout the solar system. The setting is well thought out and contains some fascinating ideas. There are some familiar ideas here, but they are expressed in a refreshing way.

A book needs more than just a decent setting and the lead character draws you through a fast paced plot. Freya is intricately developed, and her construct as a defunct concubine designed for human interaction, in a non-human world provides an interesting contrast. The concept of the multiple existences through the soul chips also creates some unexpected scenarios.

The story is strong, and evolves in some refreshing ways. There's serious consideration of the science involved, and while this is handled without becoming a major barrier to reading. I prefer my sci-fi reads to have a solid foundation, and that's certainly the case here.

Final mention should also be made about the author's writing. In fairness my issues with previous books weren't down to the quality of his prose, and it was a major factor in enjoying this book. The dialogue in particular stands out, but I also appreciated how easily he tackles complex topics, without getting bogged down. This is a damn fine sci-fi read, and one well worth checking out by any fans of the genre.
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on 9 February 2014
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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VINE VOICEon 18 December 2011
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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on 29 September 2008
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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on 30 December 2013
It's been a while since I've read a sci-fi book as gripping as this one. I loved the concept - robots after the fall of humanity. I loved the 'otherness' of their conscious. I loved the space travel, I loved the broken economy. Most of all I loved Freya, our hero, and all her other selves. It was a great book.
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on 4 March 2012
I was originally put off by reviews mentioning the complex plot: in a robot society where personality is merely software on a chip, how can we be sure who is really who? But I actually found it easy to keep up, and enjoyed what boils down to an old-fashioned espionage thriller set in an intriguing post-humanity solar system where only androids are left to carry on the functions of civilisation. My one complaint is, after all the interplanetary to-ing and fro-ing, identities swapped and masks revealed, not a great deal is really achieved or resolved. I suppose this paves the way for a sequel, but after ploughing through x number of pages, I was rather disappointed at the lack of satisfying payoff.

That said, Charles Stross still blows many of his contemporaries off the page, and this is a fun, rip-roaring read.
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Stross is one of the newer hard-sf voices, and his previous books have shown a great inventiveness and a plethora of ideas and concepts that go well beyond what we've seen in the field before. This book, while firmly grounded in homage to some of the great early SF masters of Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke, is in many ways just as inventive as his earlier books.

The situation is a solar system populated entirely by robots; their creators, us poor humans, having given up the ghost a couple of centuries ago (exact means of our demise never explicitly stated), but in any case, humans have left the building. This situation alone is reminiscent of Simak's City, where the humans left en-masse for Jupiter, and left stewardship of Earth in the hands of robots. But unlike that story, here we have a vibrant society of robots, who only nominally follow Asimov's Three Laws, robots that have evolved various classes and a hierarchy based on power and money, complete with a method of completely enslaving a robot who has run out of funds.

The story follows Freya, a sexbot built to service the sexual needs of the now long-gone humans, and as such can find no purpose to her life. She has to make do with sex with other robots, which is simply not as satisfying. But the plot very quickly becomes very complicated, as Freya is hired to transport a certain illicit package to Mars (shades of Heinlein's Friday), and in doing so becomes involved in schemes and counter-schemes by those who are attempting to really control the entire solar system. During the course of delving into these schemes, we are treated to a grand tour of the Solar system, from Mercury all the way out to the Oort cloud, all thoroughly grounded in the best information currently available about conditions of each of Sol's family members.

In many ways, this book's message is about identity and just what makes a `person', as one of the capabilities these robots have is to record and exchange `soul-chips' with other robots of the same lineage. While this message is clear, it also leads to the major problem with this book. In its later stages it becomes very difficult to keep track of just who is who (schizophrenia runs rampant!), who the bad and good guys really are, and just what the ultimate purpose of each of the factions really is. Freya's character, which had been so carefully and well built up in the first half of this book, seems to get lost in all the multiple other personalities. Alongside of this is one other problem: the portrayed level of sexual attraction Freya feels for another robot who is extremely close to the model of their Creators (i.e., a human male), as I found it rather unbelievable that robots would be designed with such an overriding complex that it would subsume their normal rationality.

The ending was also a bit of a disappointment, with a bit too much of `all ends well' and `things will get better from now on', and too little resolution of some of the more complicated details of the various plot threads.

There's a fair amount of sex in this book, almost a given due to its premise, and while never extremely graphic, does include certain varieties that some might consider `kinky', and certainly makes this book unsuitable for younger people.

Inventive and scientifically solid, but eventually too complicated to really satisfy.

---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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on 2 August 2014
I have enjoyed all of Charles' books up to now and was of the opinion that the man could do no wrong - right up until I read this one. Actually I'm lying. I haven't read this yet. It is so dull and uninspiring that I just can't quite bring myself to get through it, and I have tried! The idea is good but Mr Stross has made such a meal of it that getting past the half-way point is beyond me. It may be that the book improves and has a fine finish worthy of the effort getting there, but I for one will probably never find out.
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on 9 January 2014
Great momentum, excellent writing, innovative ideas. Really worth the read - about time Charles Stross was recognized for the great writer he is!
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on 21 February 2011
The top few reviews give a sufficiently detailed introduction to the book that there's no need for me to cover the same ground. But I have to add that the problem with virtually all space operas is that you have to suspend disbelief, because it seems highly unlikely that human interstellar travel will ever happen. So it was good to read an SF book that recognises this and suggests a way around it. Also there is a very good "female" protagonist - unusual in a book written by a man.
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