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It is a month for favourites – Charles Stross is rapidly becoming one of the authors I leap upon (metaphorically speaking of course) as soon as something new comes out (we have lots of his stuff in the house but I am trying not to gorge myself as he is far too good to be wasted in that way) and Lee Gibbons is becoming one of my favourite sci-fi cover artists.

So Saturn’s Children is yet more space opera with a strong female lead and an extremely interesting premise, so there was no way that I was going to dislike this novel, which is a really good thriller as well as a sci-fi tale.

 Freya Nakamachi-47 is a cloned synthetic person, designed to be a concubine for humans, but activated long after the human race has totally died out. The robots, for want of a better word, have built their own society which unfortunately has taken on many of the worst aspects of how humans behaved – rigidly hierarchical with everything from aristocrats to slaves, overly legalistic and potentially very harsh.

Freya gets into trouble on Venus and needs to get off-planet very quickly; to do so she takes on a job as a courier, taking contraband from Mercury to Mars. Of course, this all goes a bit pear-shaped as you might expect, and Freya’s troubles multiply as she tries to find out what’s going on, and in particular who wants to kill her.

I really enjoyed this – it’s very funny in places, the thriller bits are thrilling, Freya is a likeable character in difficult circumstances and the story had a nice pay-off as far as I was concerned. Some of the funniest parts relate to the horrors of interplanetary travel – basically not a lot of fun, takes ages, is expensive and passengers often don’t survive. The variety of robot entities, some more humanoid than others, really add to the offbeat alienness of a non-human society. And there are a number of really cool spaceships.

This is another read for the 42 Challenge, and the Sc-fi experience 2010.

So where to begin? Let’s start with what it says on the back of the book:

For more than half a century Miss Hyacinthe Phypps has been offering guidance on proper behaviour. It is the publishers’ fondest hope that this book will serve the current generation of young ladies as it served their mothers.

The subtitle for TRDG (as it has become known in this house) is “The Right Thing to Say on Every Dubious Occasion” And all of the occasions covered here are distinctly dubious.

So, you are a young woman stepping over the threshold into adult womanhood, and you need to find something appropriate to say after the event. Miss Phypps has some remarkable suggestions depending on the location of your own particular threshold-stepping moment, some of them rather peculiar but all of them very funny.

At least I thought they were – let’s just say my reaction to this book was to dip in, giggle/snort with laughter depending, and then to read bits out to the Book God.

Of course the main attraction for me was the fact that this was illustrated by Edward Gorey, and the book does reflect the humour of the mid-1960s (originally published in 1965 and has been out of print for a long time) with the male characters tending to be crooners, marimba players and Chinese detectives amongst others, but I was very amused by it and still dip in occasionally when I need to be cheered up.

If you like your humour quaint, tongue in cheek and a little surreal then this might be for you.

Unless you are of a delicate disposition, of course.

Thanks to Bloomsbury for the free book.

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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February 2010