Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross is a very interesting take on what happens in the solar system after all the humans are dead. We follow Freya, a femmebot sometime around the 24th century. She was created to well, serve humans and the humans all died off around a hundred years before the story starts. Before they died, the humans managed to create a form of AI by basically duplicating brains in a non-biological fashion. The humans then placed various compulsions into the created robots and set them to performing tasks ranging from space travel to terraforming to, well escort services.
Freya finds herself surviving on the fringes of society. Her model shape is out of vogue and her original purpose is no longer needed. She is pulled into a world of plot and counter-plot as various groups try to make use of her for their own goals. Some groups want to recreate humanity and others are quite opposed to this. The opposition seems to have a good point–why recreate the slave masters?
This brings us to one of the themes of the book. If AI’s are able to be created, how should we treat them. The humans in the story sadly use them as slaves. Unfortunately, this seems like all too possible a result. It is often difficult to get people to treat other humans as real, thinking entities, let alone convince them that non-biologically created beings could be at least as equal as they are. I come firmly down on the side of if something acts with sentience, then you should treat it with as much respect as you would treat any other person.
In Saturn’s Children, Stross is paying some homage to Heinlein’s Friday where Heinlein explores some of the same ideas. Stross lets loose on a much larger canvas than Heinlein’s in this case and the interesting difference of all of the humans being dead makes for a very different perspective.
So far, I’ve enjoyed all of Stross’ books and I recommend this one as well.