March 1, 2009
Follow me on Twitter

Saturn’s Children

by Charles Stross

I was expecting a sequel to Friday – and, sure, there are plenty of allusions – but Saturn’s Children is closer to Asimov and to Simak. We’re in the world of Asimov robots, complete with the Three Laws, but something went wrong: not long after the robot industry got firmly established, humanity went extinct and today’s civilization, extending throughout the solar system and reaching toward Proxima Centauri and Tau Ceti, is exclusively robotic. What do Asimov’s laws, Stross asks, mean to the robots? And, specifically, what do the Laws of Robotics mean when there are no humans left to obey?

Saturn’s Children tackles the core questions of Battlestar Galactica, at least as we understand it today (as three episodes remain in that long and enigmatic drama): when toasters can think and love, are they people? And, if they are people, are Asimov’s Laws merely oppressive and exploitative? Stross also asks, just how do Asimov’s robots learn those laws, so deeply planted in their psyche. It’s not a nice answer, and that answer is subtly and skillfully woven into the fabric of what seems to be a pleasant, if overly-plotted, adventure.