BooksOfTheMoon

Saturn’s Children

By Charles Stross

Rating: 4 stars

This is a post-human novel. Not a novel set in a world where Humanity has evolved into something more than human, but a world where Humanity has become extinct. Not a very interesting place, you might think, but we have left a legacy in this world: AI robots. These self-aware descendants have colonised the solar system and even begun looking to the stars. Our heroine is Freya, a robot who was obsolete before she was even ‘born’: a sex robot activated just after Humanity became extinct. However, when she has a nasty run-in with an aristocrat and has to leave Venus in a hurry and receives a ‘soul chip’ with the memories of one of her sisters things suddenly start getting interesting for Freya.

Yes, I did use the word ‘aristocrat’ in that summary. In this world, humans never figured out how to create AI from scratch, so they used their own neural patterns as templates, which comes with certain… baggage, including the desire to be free. In the fear that that their servants would revolt, the humans ensured that each robot would have an override slot, and once a chip was inserted, their free will would be entirely disabled. Once the first robots started gaining legal freedom, they followed the patterns of their creators and started buying their own slaves, ensuring they were chipped and thus a new aristocracy was born.

I love the idea of a post-human solar system and the things that flow from that, but Stross doesn’t just spend all his time on that (although the world is very well fleshed out), but there’s a cracking story in there too, hinging on the ‘soul chips’ that allow siblings of the same ‘lineage’ (ie created from the same neural template) to record and share their personality and memories, usually when one of the siblings dies. There’s a lot of twists and turns here and it’s sometimes hard to keep up with, but there’s a lot to it and I certainly enjoyed reading it.

Book details

ISBN: 9781841495682
Publisher: Orbit
Year of publication: 2008

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