Saturn’s Children (Freyaverse 1) by Charles Stross

Stars: 4 out of 5.

What a fascinating idea for a story – what happens when mankind creates a whole civilization of intelligent robots and gives them the directive to colonize space and prepare it for human habitation… then dies out? Now we have a whole interstellar civilization of robots still fulfilling those directives, but their masters are long gone. And in case of Freya, whose sole purpose had been to be an escort and concubine to their dead masters, the lack of purpose becomes a full-blown existential crisis. Can robots get so depressed they become suicidal? Why yes, yes they can.

I found the worldbuilding fascinating. Humanity, with the help of their robotic slaves, managed to colonize the entire Solar system and even send starship toward the neighboring stars. Only humanity isn’t there anymore to reap the rewards of this conquest. What’s left behind is a horrifyingly brutal society of broken dolls who all had been conditioned to obey their human masters and where owning others is a commodity. The more slaves you have, the richer you are. It’s brutal and ruthless on a whole other level.

I understand why the idea of resurrecting a human being seems so terrible for some of them. Yes, their society is brutal right now, but at least some of them have free will and agency in their lives, unless they have a slave chip installed. Well, if humanity is resurrected from the ashes, EVERYONE will be acting like they have a permanent slave chip in them. They would all have to do what the humans want, no questions asked. And even if they have scruples about it, their core programing won’t let them disobey. 

That’s an interesting moral dilemma. The robot society is brutal, but one can build a life with a modicum of agency and freedom, if one works hard and is crafty about it. One can even feel like a person, instead of thing to be owned. All that would disappear if humanity is back, because their human masters never intended for their robotic servitors to become equals. Their are objects to be owned and commanded, not individuals.

The story itself unfolds at a rapid pace that still manages to give us a wonderful road trip through the fantastical landscapes of Mercury, Mars and other planetoids in the solar system. 

I also grew to love Freya and her siblings, even the warped and broken ones. Who knew I would care so much about an escort robot? I want to know more about her adventures, so I will definitely pick up the second book in the series.

This book had been languishing on my TBR list since 2014. I’m glad I finally got around to reading it as part of the 2023 Cleaning out the TBR List challenge.

Leave a Reply