Orbit, 2013, 337 pages
The year is AD 7000. The human species is extinct - for the fourth time - due to its fragile nature. Krina Alizond-114 is metahuman, descended from the robots that once served humanity. She’s on a journey to the water-world of Shin-Tethys to find her sister Ana. But her trip is interrupted when pirates capture her ship. Their leader, the enigmatic Count Rudi, suspects that there’s more to Krina’s search than meets the eye.
He’s correct: Krina and Ana each possess half of the fabled Atlantis Carnet, a lost financial instrument of unbelievable value - capable of bringing down entire civilizations. Krina doesn’t know that Count Rudi suspects her motives, so she accepts his offer to get her to Shin-Tethys in exchange for an introduction to Ana. And what neither of them suspects is that a ruthless body-double assassin has stalked Krina across the galaxy, ready to take the Carnet once it is whole - and leave no witnesses alive to tell the tale…
I quite liked Saturn's Children, which was an ode to and send-up of Heinlein. Neptune's Brood is a sequel, but only inasmuch as it is set in the same universe, a few thousand years later. Humans are still extinct (but that's okay, they get brought back every now and then), and their android creations have now colonized other star systems.
But there's still no FTL. Which gives the Stross the opportunity to introduce the concept of "slow money" and "fast money."
Actually, this entire book reads like an economics term paper slipped into a space opera. And it's actually quite interesting, especially when the plot gets to the Faster-Than-Light Scam, and the lost civilization of Atlantis.
However, Krina Alizond-114 does not have the sassy and amusing voice of Freya Nakamichi 47, and her adventures neither amused nor thrilled me. Even when she encounters space mermaids and pirate bats. Working space pirates "realistically" into an STL story was impressive, and so was turning a space opera involving an interstellar scam centuries in the making into a discourse about economics and the nature of money, but there was none of the sense of fun, tragicomedy, and the slightly absurd of this book's predecessor.
I have no quibbles with its Hugo nomination, but it's probably my least favorite Stross novel so far.
Verdict: A good book, but not really a great book. Neptune's Brood is full of big space operatic ideas and showcases Stross's cleverness as an author, but I was not blown away and even the entertainment factor was lacking compared to Saturn's Children.
Also by Charles Stross: My reviews of Accelerando and Saturn's Children.
My complete list of book reviews.