Empire Games by Charles Stross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I put off reading this Stross novel for the weirdest of reasons. I assumed, based on the blurb, (if not the series caption,) that it was part of the Merchant Princes books.
I was right. And I was wrong.
Much time has passed since the events of those Merchant Princes novels. We get to return to Miriam and her beau and her missing child, but best of all, the Merchant Princes are DONE. Revolution and a new government have taken over this alternate timeline, but as with all these Princes, there's a bit of traveling still going on. In fact, there's a lot.
Our America is its comfortable near-police state and it has technological means to travel across alternate worlds thanks to the necessity of protecting itself after that little bit of the destruction of the White House. The other world is trying desperately to learn from the mistakes of all previous revolutions and do it right and smart, avoiding all the pitfalls.
Unfortunately, our America is PARANOID as hell. It's all cold-war with them and this novel is a pretty pure piece of spy action, misunderstandings, lies, and pretty impressive political thought.
It just happens to revolve around neighboring time-lines, impressive world-building, and mysteries that go quite a bit deeper. Such as the old, old America that was technologically advanced but is now dead. Never mind that all our cold-war action is BETWEEN different Americas. :)
I was very impressed. I read all the other Merchant Princes novels and enjoyed them well enough even if I don't really put them on the same level as the rest of Stross's works, but they were fine. This one, however, got me excited about it all once again.
This is the beginning of a new series even if it's an offshoot of the old. I was right and wrong. :)
Fortunately, I don't really think it's all that necessary to read the previous ones to get this. It just helps if you want to know WHERE it all came from. From feudal world-walkers controlling an epic smuggling empire to the revolution that freed a whole people from THAT to a game of empires where both sides can sneak nukes across world-lines. :)
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