Charles Stross – Saturn’s Children (2008) | Book Review

Charles Stross Saturn's ChildrenCharles Stross is a name in science fiction that is relatively well-known. It doesn’t have quite the recognition of writers like China Mieville or Neil Gaiman, but it is fair to say that the vast majority of readers whose favorite literary genre is science fiction have at least heard of Stross, even if they haven’t actually read one of his works. Saturn’s Children is our first exposure to Charles Stross’ novels.

The easiest way to describe the impression given by Saturn’s Children is to compare it to a movie. It’s like seeing a wonderful, perfectly edited trailer that makes the film seem like something that absolutely must be experienced, only to find upon going to see the film it is disappointingly clunky and borderline uncomfortable to watch. The idea of a sex bot whose creators are long gone and thus she has to find a new career choice is interesting and amusing, but the novel is so awkward that it is a very unrewarding experience.

It doesn’t help that the main character is forced into strange sexual situations that come across as slightly misogynistic. Early on in the novel, she travels to Mercury aboard a strange travel device that actually has sex with her to keep her calm during the trip. It gives the impression that Stross is trying really hard to write a comedic novel, something like a slightly more eccentric Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but misses the mark by a whole lot. The writing itself is fine, but the novel on the whole feels like a total mess.

Being that Saturn’s Children was actually nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2009, it’s surprising to find the work to be so utterly disappointing. Apparently, the novel is intended as something of a tribute to the work of science fiction legend Robert Heinlein, whose work seems pretty overrated based on what we’ve read of his. Maybe Stross is similarly overpraised, or maybe Saturn’s Children just isn’t his finest hour. Either way, it will be a while before we read anything else of his.

Rating: 1.5 stars (of 5)

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Contest: Win A Copy of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”

As part of the excitement of restarting this blog, it seemed like it would be fun to give something away to those of you who are reading this blog again early on in its rebirth. We anticipate a dramatic increase in traffic over the next few months as we push advertising and more social network buzz, so here is the time to reward those who are reading already: we will give away a copy of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick, in your chosen format (paperback or ebook) for simply commenting on this post and telling us what your favorite science fiction or fantasy novel is. Winner will be picked at random from the submissions.

As is pretty obvious from the title alone, this blog was named after the Philip K. Dick book, your dear editor’s very favorite science fiction novel. It features a man named Rick Deckard in a slightly dystopian future California who works to hunt down sophisticated androids who have escaped from colonies on the moon to return to Earth. It is a short novel, at just over two hundred pages, but is just about perfect. If you have already read it, you can give your copy away to a friend, and if you haven’t, we think you will be in for a serious treat. Just tell us your favorite science fiction or fantasy novel in the comments, and a little bit about the book and maybe what the genres mean to you in general. We’re not picky, we just want to see your smiling internet faces. Winner will be announced next week.