Saturn’s Children is Charles Stross’s attempt at writing a late-period Heinlein novel: “The older Heinlein, despite the weird icky fetishes and the barking political rants and the self-indulgent shit was nevertheless a more interesting writer than his younger self”. Besides, everybody else was doing early-period Heinlein.
The novel Stross pays homage to is Friday, from 1982, a favourite of mine. I’ve read it three times, and will read it again. I won’t reread Saturn’s Children, because even a good homage is a shadow of its inspiration. But it is a good homage. Stross has recaptured what made Friday work as a spy thriller, including Heinlein’s more charming quirks. But he also does sly jokes at Heinlein’s expense, and a major one at Asimov’s.
Humanity has gone extinct, and left their robot servants behind. Programmed to obey, the robots have subverted human corporate law into a foundation for aristocracy and slave labor. The Friday in this story is Freya, a sex bot who works as a courier for a secret organization, and gets involved in a rather complex identity confusion plot involving soul backups and robot clones. Those who have read Glasshouse will know what to expect. Here, Stross takes the confusion a little too far.
There’s no point in reading Saturn’s Children if you haven’t read (and enjoyed) Friday – you’ll miss all the fun. And I’m not sure why it’s a Hugo award nominee – isn’t anyone doing anything new? This is just an enjoyable tribute.