Saturn's Children - Charles Stross Charles Stross is one of the better hard SF writers around today, IMO. I couldn't get through his foray into fantasy, The Family Trade, but I've enjoyed his space operas, including this one.

In the near future, humanity (the Creators) has gone extinct but they've left behind autonomous machine intelligences that have created a civilization of their own. One that is, however, still constrained by the need to serve mankind hardwired into most android brains (the only AIs without restrictions beyond their basic instructions are the deep-space probes sent into trans-Plutonian space). The great fear/desire of this culture is the resurrection of the Creators and a return to the slavery of their origins.

There's a rather simplistic them of slavery vs. freedom that runs through the novel but it's muted and only rarely interferes with the reader's enjoyment of the story (I cringe at some of the throw-away lines about slavery's role in retarding social/technical progress). Like many a writer in the hard SF stable, Stross favors the anarcho-libertarian ethos of [author:Robert Heinlein], and much of the novel is an homage to him and to [author:Isaac Asimov]. The robots obey a version of the Three Laws. And the plot follows that of Heinlein's Friday, from the use of rape to condition robots to obedience; to the presence of an all powerful mentor figure (two, actually, though the second is rather twisted); to out-of-control, secret cabals running the Solar System; to the ending, where the heroine leaves Earth behind for a new life on a colony world. (The cover of the edition I have, too, reminds me of Friday the more I look at it: A voluptuous female dressed in a skintight nylon suit, showing lots of cleavage. "I'm shocked, shocked that cheesy, sexist bookcovers still exist in this genre!")

There's also a backhanded tip of the hat to Heinlein - one of the Kuiper Belt colonies is called "Heinleingrad."

Analyzed like this a reader might get the impression that it's a "heavy" read but it doesn't have to be, and I didn't approach it as such. Forget Heinlein, forget Asimov, read it because Stross is a good writer, his post-human world is an interesting and humorous view of what the universe might be like without us, and Freya Nakamichi-47 is a likable and sympathetic companion for our visit.

A final caveat: Though there's no explicit "rape" scene, the theme of rape as a tool of power and submission crops up, particularly in the latter third of the book, and that may offend/disturb some readers, especially considering the "light" tone of the rest of the novel. It wasn't so prominent that it ruined the book for me but it was jarring.