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Empire Games: A Tale of the Merchant Princes Universe Hardcover – January 17, 2017
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Praise for Empire Games
"The keen eye and what-if imagination of Charles Stross fuel a fresh look at alternate worlds." ―David Brin, author of Existence
"A well-written book, full of mystery and intrigue, with entire worlds at stake." ―Michael Flynn
"If you like the spy novels of Ian Fleming, or Len Deighton, as I do, but also appreciate a genre twist, then you’ll love Empire Games. It is intelligent, entertaining and yet also a little scary." ―SFFWorld.com
Praise for The Merchant Princes Series
“Economic science fiction worth reading.” ―Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author
"Stross is not a writer who aims to leave his readers reassured: One can’t tell which way he’s going to go, nor whose side he’s on. No one beats him at hypertech either." ―The Wall Street Journal
"Absorbing." ―Kirkus Reviews
"If imagination is the key to success for a writer, Charles Stross has it in spades." ―The Times (London) on Charles Stross
About the Author
CHARLES STROSS was born in Leeds, England, in 1964. He has worked as a pharmacist, software engineer and freelance journalist, but now writes full-time. To date, Stross has won two Hugo Awards and been nominated twelve times. He has also won the Locus Award for Best Novel, the Locus Award for Best Novella, and has been shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke and Nebula Awards. His books include The Merchant Princess series, the Laundry series, and several stand-alone novels including Glasshouse, Accelerando, and Saturn's Children.
Top customer reviews
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By turns we see a near-future USA which has become a panopticon police state (albeit not wholly without justification: what would *you* do if interdimensional world-walkers had just nuked your capital?), and an alternative-world North America a generation after a radical revolution trying hard not to go down the route of the USSR, but with a looming succession crisis threatening to derail that. And then the two timelines come into contact...
There's some good characterisation going on too, with the principal viewpoint character, Rita, being well developed and sympathetic.
Of course, this is the first book of a new trilogy, so yes it does end, if not on a cliff-hanger, then with clearly much left to cover. Nonetheless, the book finishes in a satisfactory manner, with something of a twist at the very end, which Stross manages to both pre-figure sufficiently that it's not a deus ex machina yet still comes as quite a surprise.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I'm looking forward to parts two and three with anticipation.
It is escapism with political overtones and social commentary, thoughtful and interesting. You don't really need to read the first series to understand it, and I have mixed feeling recommending you do. Just the first two or three maybe, ... or maybe just build your world view with this new one. It is almost like the new book is a new timeline.
The book is an entertaining next chapter in his saga of people who can skip between paralegal universes and the logical events than unfolds as a result. The book starts a few years after the last series ended, and the US has a Department of Homeland Security amped up to the Nth degree, ready to go into spasmodic reflexive counteraction against threat of a supposed of an inter-universe attack. Meanwhile, in the other universe the remaining universe skippers desperately try to prepare their dimension to survive an incursion from the US. After all, the US carpet bombed the last universe with nuclear weapons.
The book nicely describes the events leading up to (I hope) some sort of diplomatic exchange based on mutually assured destruction - if the second universe can technologically catch up to the technology of our world.
What I find very satisfying is to build upon the hints - not so subtle - that a third and very advanced universe exists. One with terrifying technology such as converting the earth into a black hole.... Talk about doomsday weapons. And there are hints of an "origin" for the skippers abilities to "Jaunt".
Anyway - great book. Loved reading it. Hard to put down. (It helps, by the way, to have read the previous books...)
I've read most of Stross' books and, to me, this is his most approachable book in a long while. What I liked about it was the cast of characters as well as the way the story was told. While not all characters were fully detailed (nor did they need to be) the main ensemble was excellent. In particular, Grandpa Kurt was fascinating. One potential trap Stross avoided was simply alternating between story lines (and timelines); instead he let a series of scenes play out (constantly reminding the reader where they were). That helped me stay focused and engaged. Stross also avoided getting too grimdark, which I think has hurt some of his Laundry Files stories. He keeps an even tone and makes sure there is always some light ahead, even if things look dark at the moment.
Some few little things bugged me. For instance, how does Timeline 2 know to call another place Timeline 4 when they haven't discovered Timeline 3 yet? But that was probably a necessary construct to keep readers oriented, because otherwise it would be easy to get lost in the multiple plot lines. Notwithstanding the little things, I found this an excellent story with interesting characters, set in a complex multiverse.
I am happy to give this novel five stars and to recommend it to those new to Charles Stross or to his Merchant Princes multiverse.
Most recent customer reviews
I generally eschew alternate history books and series.Read more