Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Hidden Family by Charles Stross

The second book in The Merchant Princes series, The Hidden Family picks up right where The Family Trade left off. There's a good reason for this; the two were originally one single volume, and were split for economic issues and industry politics. The newish practice of booksplitting is discussed here by Rick Kleffel (In perhaps his best rant ever) and here by SF Signal.

In The Hidden Family, Miriam discovers a third world, with it's own set of world-walkers. This missing link on the family tree appears to be behind the Clan's civil war of a quarter century previous, and seems intent to start another -- starting with the assassination of Miriam Beckstein.

To draw out this rogue sect, Miriam starts up an offshoot Clan business in world three. In this third world, the American Revolution never occured, and North America is run by BRitish royalty in residence -- Great Britain itself was conquered by the French -- and a secret police force tries to stamp out democratic revolutionaries wherever they rear their heads. Miriam becomes business partners with some prominent freedom fighters, and so comes to the notice of the local gestapo.

The Hidden Family climaxes with a complex attack on the Clan's security department, and ends with a shocking revelation about Miriam's parentage. It's leaves us breathless and eagerly awaiting the third volume in the series, The Clan Corporate.

The Merchant Princes is one of the shining lights in fantasy today, and The Hidden Family is a fast-paced gem of a story.

9/10

Collector's Notes:

Charles Stross is no longer just a name to watch. He is at the cutting edge of speculative fiction, and his books will continue to garner fans. Now is the time for investment in his books in hardcover, and Clarkesworld Books has each of The Merchant Princes titles in first edition hardcovers signed by Stross for less than retail price. It's a can't miss proposition.

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