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Saturn's Children

Charlie Stross novel

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Ambitious, but flawed homage to both Heinlein & Asimov

  • Feb 23, 2011
This starts with a dedication to Asimov and Heinlein, so it's most interesting to see what Stross has taken from whom and incorporated into his semi-homage. Well, it's a future limited to the solar system where robots are running the show since humans have gone extinct. The most obvious element swiped from Asimov is the use of rules to control the robots in the presence of humans, but Stross has incorporated some really nasty twists how robots actually function in this universe and how those rules got implemented. Humanity really deserved their destruction in this future.

The influence of Heinlein is more felt in the characters and how the plot is structured, but with one major discrepancy that I felt really hurt the book. Freya, the main character, is for the most time a very passive character who never really has the initiative, something that feels very un-Heinlein-like. She's more like a pinball driven over the playing field by everyone else than herself. Which might be one of the reason why I never really connected to the book.

I thought the setting and the background were brilliantly realized and showed an ethical dimension in regards to robots that earlier SF that aped Asimovian rules completely lacked. The plot was a well done Heinleinian tour de force, even if it didn't always hit the right tone. But despite all the things the book did right, I never enjoyed reading it. When I started I expected another Accelerando or Glasshouse or Scratch Monkey and while it has a similar depth, it's just not as compelling.

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More Saturn's Children reviews
review by . February 23, 2011
posted in SF Signal
This review originally appeared in RayGun Revival magazine in early 2008      Saturn's Children by Charles Stross  Ace, 2008, 336 pages      I've just finished Saturn's Children, Charlie Stross' homage/send-up of the works of Robert A. Heinlein and I'm very tempted to restrict my review to a single word: whew!    What a ride. This is an extremely complex work that twists together an enormous number of elements …
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Saturn's Children
is a 2008 science fiction novel by British author Charles Stross. Stross has said that it is "a space opera and late-period Heinlein tribute"[1] (specifically Heinlein's Friday[2]). It was nominated for the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Novel [3], and was a finalist for the 2009 Prometheus Award.

The novel describes the travels and perils of Freya Nakamichi-47, a bishōjo gynoid in the distant future. Humanity is extinct and android society has assumed a near-feudal form, with "aristos" and "arbeiters" (a term from the German word arbeiter, worker) having spread throughout the Solar System. Freya, a courtesan at loose ends, becomes a courier for the Jeeves Corporation and learns of a shadowy conspiracy to overturn, or perhaps even control, android society. Soon she is on the run with her identity and her very existence threatened.

The novel includes numerous references to the works of Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, especially to Heinlein's novel Friday: the protagonist is an artificial woman, designed and trained to make love to men or kill them; she travels extensively at the bidding of a mysterious "Boss", and impersonates an aristocrat traveling on a spaceship as part of a mission. Even her name hints at Heinlein's novel, and she is actually called "Friday" at one point, likely as a joke.

Saturn's Children is believed to be the first work of fiction to include the dwarf planet Eris as...

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