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Saturn's Children by Charles Stross

01/11/2008. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Saturn's Children in the USA - or Buy Saturn's Children in the UK

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pub: Orbit. 371 page small hardback. Price: 15.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84149-567-5.

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Freya Nakamachi-47 is a sex-bot, not a sexpot. She was created to please and be pleased by a human. Regrettably, humans managed to make themselves extinct some time before she was activated and has many sisters and likes to keep in touch. Freya doesn't have much credit and when in trouble with an aristo, she needs money and transport fast. Falling in with the Jeeves Corporation, Freya does some courier work but quickly realises there is more to the Corporation and her sisters than meets the eye.

Charles Stross seems to be able to turn his writing abilities effortlessly between hardware and software. Here he is able to describe the design of interstellar craft without making me fall asleep. He can also fantasise on the theme of being a well-oiled robot that is hot to trot with anything with an appendage and I mean anything. The sex is not overdone but does fill in interludes, especially during space travel.

The system that is described here is very much like the one way we chose to live ourselves. Despite the absence of humans, it seems that the servants they invented can create their own hierarchies. What most of them fear is the re-creation of their creator and much energy is expended to prevent the re-emergence of humans.

By turns funny, painful and a genuine speculation on whether humans are redundant, this short novel packs a lot of detail into its covers. Anyone who can get its protagonist into deep space for years on end and still have a coherent space-travelling plot deserves a pat on the back. It's no mean feat making the reader interested in a construct but then every character in a novel is a construct and this one is no worse or better for having oil running through it rather than blood.

Overall, this is a great story that moves from planet to planet, utilising some witty and inventive methods of space travel which no doubt have some basis in science. The character of Freya who narrates the tale is as human as you or I. She reflects on her experiences and engages us with her enthusiastic unfolding of the travails of her so-called life.

It is a very enjoyable read and perhaps we can look forward to more from this thrill-packed universe.

Sue Davies

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