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May 14, 2009

Saturn’s Children

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — inky @ 8:53 pm

Saturn’s Children (Charles Stross): Given that this book has an important chicken referred to as a “plot capon”, and it has a museum of religious evolution named after John Scalzi, I am inclined to wonder if the cover is an intentional joke as well. See, it’s got this slightly-inhuman lady with purple hair in a 60’s-tv-idea-of-sf costume and a revealing pose, exactly like terrible sf novels stereotypically have — except here the protagonist really is a not-quite-human pleasure droid, so the cover is in fact totally accurate.

I didn’t pick it up based on the cover, though, I picked it up because somebody said it had Jeeves in it. Which it does, quite a lot of him. Cloning is big in the future, see.

But this is Stross, so what the book is actually about is the Singularity. In this case, the deal is this is the way far future and humans are extinct, and the solar system is populated by the robots we created before dying. The book is mostly about the search for meaning — while humans don’t know if they were created for a purpose, these characters know exactly what purpose they were created for, and know it’s totally irrelevant for their lives, so, uh, what do they do now. I mean, I shouldn’t give the impression that this is a philosophical book; like you might expect, most of the writing is about the wacky world of the future and how robots react to it (oxygen is a rusting poison! there’s a beanstalk on mars! robots don’t understand what bathrooms were for!), with a hefty help of complicated conspiracy and spy-type action.

The thing is, though, I don’t think Stross really knows how to answer any of the questions or issues he raises. The climax of the book is, frankly, a confused muddle, and the ending is a cop-out. It might just be that the issue is too big for anyone to really answer, but in that case he should have picked a smaller version to write about, eh? It doesn’t help that this really is a totally post-human society, either. I wouldn’t have thought it would make a difference to me, but it really does — it was pretty hard to relate to or care about the protagonists when they’re explicitly Not Like Me.

So yeah, on the whole I guess I give this a mild thumbs-down, but I think I might just be the wrong audience for it. If you like this sort of thing, you’ll probably like it.


  1. What happens when two compatible pleasure droids get together?


    Comment by Conrad — June 14, 2009 @ 6:51 am

  2. That is in fact a major plot point in the book. Consider that pleasure droids are designed to look like humans as well as being aroused by them ..

    Comment by inky — June 14, 2009 @ 10:24 am

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