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The Bellinghman

#198 Charles Stross: The Family Trade (The Merchant Princes #1)

Charles Stross: The Family Trade (The Merchant Princes #1)

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Saint Martin's Press (Nov 2004)
ISBN-10: 0765309297
ISBN-13: 978-0765309297
Category(ies): SF

I just bought and read this in hardback, even though I already had bought and read a paperback edition in Stockholm. On the other hand, I now have a nice hardback stack of the first four volumes in this series.

The first thing to note is that this is really the first half of a novel - the concluding half is in The Hidden Family, so don't start this until you know you have access to that.

I'm a fan of Stross's writing. He has a number of different areas of SF that he's writing in, but this is in some respects the most enjoyable. It reads a bit like a cross between H Beam Piper and Roger Zelazny (and he unashamedly acknowledges that at the start), but needs bow to neither. Here, his heroine is Miriam Beckstein, the adopted daughter of a pair of Jewish Hippie activists. She's a Boston area tech journalist, who is abruptly sacked when she uncovers strangeness in the financial underpinnings on some local companies (first rule - check your employers aren't included). And then, she gets the 'package of papers' from her adoptive mother, finds a strange brooch in it that she stares at too long, and suddenly finds herself in a different world.

A different world that she immediately starts to investigate.

It turns out that she's a member of the Clan, a group of people from this other world. Clan members have the ability to shift between their world (one where the Vikings' descendants run a feudal East Coast) and ours. Very Beam Piper, very Zelazny's Prince of Amber. And she's a senior member, with all the political fallout that that implies.

This is a large novel, one full of ideas. It is delightfully empty of plot drives based on stupidity - Stross may have characters who are ignorant, but they're not necessarily stupid, even if they might appear to be so.

Well worth reading (but make sure you've also got The Hidden Family).
Tags: books, books by friends, reviews

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