Dark State by Charles Stross
Perennial favorite Stross gives us the next installment in the return of the ‘Merchants’ series. He does not disappoint.
Empire Games (2016) introduced the intense geopolitical (and para-temporal-political) situation that followed the mutual discovery of the parallel time lines in the Merchant Family books. The latest story works along multiple complex plots in multiple interconnected time lines.
Cold war tensions are crazy and dangerous on one planet. Adding in world walkers bumps up the paranoia exponentially. Stross has obviously enjoyed developing these alternate histories, and has taken the opportunity to deploy every kind of trade craft you can imagine. Suck it, James Bond!
The plots and intrigue ratchet up and up, with a full tilt nuclear exchange a real possibility. It’s hard to tell who is who, let alone who might be the “good guys”.
The main exception seems to be a couple of plucky young Disney princesses from different time lines (we have to get these two together). Rita and Elizabeth and a lot of other little people have been sucked into the Empire Games. Can they survive and save the ones they love, not to mention help avoid nuclear war?
And, by the way, we still don’t really understand world walking and the more mysterious time lines. It’s easy to get absorbed in all the drama on a couple of time lines, but there is a heck of a lot of paratime out there. Humans are pretty small potatoes, and we really don’t know what might be out there.
At the end of this book, we are left hanging off a gigantic, paratime cliff. The next book is due in a year. Arg!
Like I said. This is what we have come to expect from Master Charlie.
- Charles Stross, Dark State, New York, Tom Doherty Associates, 2017.
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