It’s a way better book than Neptune’s Brood. Totally fascinating. The idea is that human beings have died out, but that robot society is still organizing itself within the parameters that the humans left behind. Thus, robots are only free if they’ve established corporations to buy themselves. The government is extremely anarchic because robots can’t legally vote in any of the defunct nations that humans have left behind. And robots have this strange love/hate relationship with their own freedom, wherein they want to be free (because they’re built in humanity’s image) but also want to find some other robot to serve (because they’ve all been built with a purpose in mind and now they feel a bit useless). Am liking it a lot. I wonder if this augurs a new phase of science-fiction reading in my life.
I finished Neptune’s Brood. It was so thoughtprovoking. It reads like someone finished Debt: The First 5000 Years, and then thought, “Now, I can write the most kick-ass science fiction novel ever.”
Basically, the conceit of the novel is that seven thousand years from now, interstellar colonization is well under way, but it’s incredibly expensive: Equipping and launching a colony ship takes the equivalent of an entire planetary GDP. And in order to fund interstellar colonization there’s this currency called slow money, which are basically bitcoins that need to be countersigned across interstellar distances by banks in other solar systems. It’s all complicated. But basically, the book is taking the idea of Debt, which is that originally there existed currencies that were only used in great purchases. Like, there were currencies that you only used to buy wives. Or only used to buy slaves. You didn’t use these currencies to buy bread. They were for big endeavors. And they were basically a way of keeping score. They had a highly abstract meaning that’s kind of different from how we think of money now.
And, in Stross’ world, slow money is similar. It’s a currency that you (basically) only use to colonize planets. You spend lots of money in order to colonize a planet, and then the new colony owes that money to you. And the only way for them to repay that money to you is for them to, eventually, send out colonies of their own, which will, in turn, owe money to them. It is super cool, just trust me on this. The plot and story and characters…not so cool.
Now, though, I’m reading the first book Stross wrote in this universe: Saturn’s Children. And I’m only partway through, but this one is even better, because it kind of has a human aspect to it? It’s told from the point of view of a sexbot in a world where mankind is extinct. The whole solar system is under the control of robots, and they’ve created their own complicated society, and human-oriented bots (like sexbots) feel pretty out of place. So there’s a pathos there. This sexbot (and her brethren) doesn’t feel like there’s any reason for living. I like it. I like it alot.