In Saturn's Children, Freya is an obsolete android concubine in a society where humans haven't existed for hundreds of years. A rigid caste system keeps the Aristos, a vindictive group of humanoids, well in control of the lower, slave-chipped classes. So when Freya offends one particularly nasty Aristo, she's forced to take a dangerous courier job off-planet.
©2008 Charles Stross; (P)2009 Recorded Books, LLC
"Stross takes a plot device common to mystery novels and turns it into one of the most stylishly imaginative robot tales ever penned." (Booklist)
"Good fun... Heinlein himself would've liked this." (San Diego Union-Tribune)
I am an avid listener. I listen between 75-100 hours per month on my iPhone: 60% fiction to 40% non-fiction.
During the reading of this self-proclaimed ‘space opera,’ I admit to swinging from wondering why I was still listening to being enthralled. This novel is about robots that we humans create. Unfortunately for homo-sapiens, we die out and leave the robots in charge with human objectives and a streak of subservience. What ensues is a bizarre culture of slavery. Written in the first person by a female robot bot named Freya; the story twists and turns with multiple personalities, a complex plot, much intrigue and misdirection. It is definitely hard to keep it all straight sometimes as event sometimes move too fast and the point of view switches among personalities, so you’ll find yourself skipping back 30 seconds on occasion.
The narrator Bianca Amato did a very good job of handling all of the voice. Though she speaks with a bit of an English accent, she is pleasant and brisk with her narration.
This novel will appeal to a listener who is interested in rooting for all sides. You root for one thing, then another and another. By the time you finish you reassess they story and reflect. From this point of view, the novel make you think, think about a world humans created but are not manifest. I recommend this book – it is different than I thought it would be; but I am still happy I listened.
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.
In the future of Charles Stross’ Saturn’s Children, humans have somehow managed to kill themselves off. But, before they did, they developed an array of artificial intelligence machines to serve them. Some were sent out to explore and settle the galaxy. The universe now contains all sorts of robots and cyborgs. They’ve set up a class-structured society with “aristo” robots owning those that humans had fitted with loyalty-inducing slave-chips. This strange new feudal society carries on with normal business, free from the oversight and lordship of humans.
Freya is one of these cyborgs. She was designed to be a “companion” (to put it nicely) for humans, so she is humanoid in appearance and exhibits most human emotions and motivations. She was spawned from a “mother” named Rhea and has numerous “sisters” whose “soul chips” can be downloaded and uploaded to new bodies. Freya used to be a slave, but her “family” has purchased her freedom.
As a femmebot, Freya was designed to fall in love with human men, but she has never met one because she was activated after they had all died out. In this new world, there is no one for her to love and serve. Now obsolete, she lives a lonely existence in a modified shipping container on Venus, eking out a living by doing odd jobs. At the beginning of the story, she manages to enrage another android and needs to leave Venus quickly, so she takes a job escorting a biological sample from Mercury to Mars. Freya doesn’t know what she’s protecting, but she soon discovers that there are many androids who want to get their hands on it. Many are worried that this specimen will overturn the android way of life and, somehow, Freya’s siblings and her crazy mother are also involved. Everyone seems to be chasing Freya.
The best part of Saturn’s Children is the post-human setting. Most post-apocalyptic stories imagine a universe devoid of intelligent life after we kill ourselves off, but Stross’ world is teeming. Freya leads us on a fascinating tour of this strange universe which includes slutty space capsules, museums featuring the skeletons of dinosaurs and homo sapiens side-by-side, the city of Cinnabar which perpetually rolls on rails around the equator of Mercury, a Martian memorial to the humans who could never manage to colonize the red planet, and a galaxy-wide butler service run by robots who all use the name “Jeeves.”
Also entertaining are a few philosophical discussions. The robots in this far future think of homo sapiens as their Creator and argue about whether robots evolved from mutation or were manufactured by their intelligent designers. Freya complains that followers of “the holy doctrine of Evolution” are dogmatic and close-minded, and this is very funny. Stross also explores the concepts of empathy, freedom and slavery, free will and determinism. Freya’s kind feel like they are not truly free because of the conditioning their creators instilled in them.
Saturn’s Children is a fun adventurous tour around a post-human galaxy. The pace rarely slows down for Freya, who’s in danger and on the run the entire time. Some parts of the plot go on too long and sometimes it’s hard to follow because Freya rarely understands what’s going on, whose side she’s on, and what she’s running from. The plot is constantly turning and twisting, which sometimes makes for a bewildering reading experience. In addition, the characters, being robots, are not easy to emphasize with, though I did find them more relatable than the characters in the companion novel, Neptune’s Brood.
Charles Stross has said that Saturn’s Children is a tribute to Robert A. Heinlein’s novel Friday. Look for additional nods to Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and John Scalzi. Saturn’s Children was nominated for the Hugo, Locus, and Prometheus Awards.
I listened to Bianca Amato narrate Recorded Books’ 14 hour long audio version of Saturn’s Children. She is simply wonderful. I love her lovely English accent, her tone, and her pace. I recommend this version of Saturn’s Children.
Hyperbole is the Best Thing EVER!!!!
I went into this thinking it was a sci-fi book. But it's more erotica than anything. And if you're not prepared for that, it will kill the story. I would tune out way too often because of the weird sex scenes and would then have lost some key moments that were plot related by the time I remembered to actively listen again. I was just too uncommitted (or disturbed) to rewind. I think they meant for "space opera" to be a clue as to the erotic nature....but I missed the point.
Underneath all the Rule 34/Japanese Manga bizarro-ness is a sci-fi story with a few good things. For example the idea of humans leaving robots that are still tied to human rules programmed into them. And a very realistic take on space travel. However, as I said, it's not always easy to follow.
So if you are looking to read this, I don't want to discourage you. Just know that it's 50 shades of gray for robots. That way you don't get lost in a barrage of "what the heck am I listening to moments" that make it difficult to get engaged with the plot. You may end up liking it way more with that in mind.
This book had virtually no plot. It was so boring, that I would start to nod off while I was at red lights. Freya flew from planet to planet to deliver items to people. Towards the end there seemed to be a small reason for her trips but at that point, I didn't even care because I had listened for 10 hours already. For some reason I must not have realized when I bought the book this would be an attempt to make a robot sex novel, so when those scenes first started I was suprised. Stross is not even good at writing a sex scene, even some badly wrtitten romance novels are sometimes worth skimming, just for a few good pages of hot steamy sex. Not this book.
The concept of the book was a good one, it was just done poorly. I felt no connection to Freya or any other character in the book. I did not care what happened to anyone in the book. Space travel may be sh*t, but so is this pathetic attempt of a space novel.
Don't waste your time
Aging Gen-Xer. Umpteenth generation Southerner. IT professional. Devourer of audiobooks.
Chock full of smart, dry British humor, honest depictions of space travel and action. Lots of action. It's as if Alastair Reynolds, Arthur C. Clarke and Douglas Adams had a baby and raised him to be the most British of science fiction writers. And the cherry on top of this excellent space opera sandwich? The narrator, Bianca Amato. I could listen to her read the phone book, and pay money for the privilege. Saturn's Children is a credit well spent!
Concept good, writing good, narrator good -- but I can't bear a weak heroine -- one who has to flee from her enemies, escaping their clutches only by accident. What's the point of being a robot and having no power? There's even a scene straight from the Perils of Pauline, where she has to squirm out of bonds holding her to a futuristic railroad track. She's doubly weakened because her "emotions" make her helpless. Is this some animus the author has towards women, ie that they're stupid? Anyway, it's a real waste of a character. I'm not finished yet -- right now the heroine has a slave chip in her head, and I'm not really looking forward to what boring trick the author uses to save her.
I love the rich texture of Charles Stross novels, and this narration was absolutely superb. I found myself re-playing sections to make sure I didn't miss a single nuance or description.
Reading Fantasy and SCI-FI on audible.
This is an interesting idea with some holes in concept. I found the idea that the robots left after the humans died out would act like their creators disturbing. The creation of a slave culture with the robot class was a concept I did not expect and the development of a class of slave owners unlikely.
But the story kept my interest. The idea of many robots of the same model existing was interesting and made it somewhat difficult to keep up.
The performance was done very well with just enough spice to carry the story off.
I'm a Hard SF & Space Opera-loving, alien android from the future. I bring gifts of SciFi eBooks & accessories for your leader's Kindle. Take me to him/her/it.
Thrust into a widening game of spycraft, our android protagonist Freya will grow from a gutter-survivor flotsam-of-society-type to someone in command of her own destiny for a change. The villains and trusted allies swap roles several times, and personalities are likewise interchangeable among robot characters who can swap ‘soul chips' at a moment’s notice. One interesting allowance of this personality exchange mechanism for the story, is that it allows blended flashback narratives from various character viewpoints. After a few iterations, however, it begins to become difficult in telling the various players and their motives apart, and I think this is a deliberate decision on Stross’s part to make the reader identify with Freya’s solitary plight. Freya, herself an obsolete sexbot designed to serve humans who have now been extinct for three hundred years, casually alters her appearance frequently and drastically redesigns herself on multiple occasions. Such android adaptability is a theme displayed across the varied locations of the story, and is contrasted against humanity’s own inflexible nature. They exist in the memory of android society as beloved creators, but mysterious and poorly understood. The pacing and action are both healthy, and frequent satirical observations of human foibles through the eyes of our creations are also entertaining. There’s (unsurprisingly) a lot of sex included, though it never feels gratuitous as it occurs as a routine matter for the character; transactional. While the conspiratorial threads come to a satisfying conclusion, I remain unsatisfied with the long-term direction these characters and society are headed, and look forward to some insight from the sequel.
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