My heart was won in the third chapter, in which Our Heroine, captured by the Bad Guys, is (get this) lashed down across the railway tracks to Meet Her Doom. Which I have to call damn stylish. OK, the track isn’t for trains, it’s for a mobile city that has to roll slowly around Mercury to stay in the shade. And the chapter’s title is Silent Movie.
Anyhow, said heroine is in fact a Robot Sex Slave and distinctly has the blues. Among other reasons, the humans whom she’s been designed to pleasure have all died out. In fact, so have pretty well all living things; Sol’s system is populated by various flavors of robot and android.
You’d think that a sex slave would thus be superfluous but no, these automata screw like bunnies. And in fact it’s plausible; the whole imagined-world of synthetic personalities sort of makes sense; even the part about the sex.
Plus, there’s gripping combat action and nifty rocket-ships trudging back and forth across the system, and Our Heroine is a really sympathetic and engaging character.
Gripes? · Yes, three. The full title is Saturn’s Children — A Space Opera, but at no time does any spaceship ram any other spaceship. Sheesh.
Second: There are perhaps too many characters; I had to step away from the book for a couple of evenings halfway through, and when I came back I really had trouble keeping track of Freya’s sibs on one hand and the Jeeveses on the others; in fact, I still can’t recall 100% how Reginald arrived on the scene.
Third, at the, um, er, climax of the novel, it is essential to the plot that Our Heroine, the female Sex Robot, put on a virtuosic exhibition of her profession in cooperation with Petruchio, the male Sex Robot. And Charlie Stross, after having set this scene up for like five pages, steps through his novelistic fourth wall to accuse us of voyeurism, and declines to provide details. Hey, it was his idea! Bad, bad author!
Buy/Don’t Buy · On top of being good fun, the book surmounts some pretty challenging problems in sci-fi authorship; that no-human-characters thing to start with, along with making a very distant future believable. I enjoyed it, and lots of others will too.