by Charles Stross
Cover Artist: Shutterstock
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Books Hardcover / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765337566
Date: 17 January 2017
They are coming. It is the one inevitable truth. The U.S. government attacked by the alternate universe clan will not rest until its security is ensured. The survivors of the original counterattack now struggle to create a place for themselves in a new world while preparing for the eventual conflict.
Rita Douglas is struggling through life. Although her adoptive family loves and cares for her, she isn't finding a smooth path forward, like many of her generation. A genetic marker will give her the chance to find stability, but at a cost and great risk.
Kurt Douglas, Rita's grandfather, has spent nearly his whole life hiding who he is. He prepared his granddaughter to live under the radar and clean. His training will be important to the future of multiple timelines.
Miriam Burgeson was the main character of The Merchant Princes Multiverse. She survived those trials, but now she must juggle the needs of a new world and government. The post-revolutionary world is advancing fast, but there are internal power struggles which could cause the whole nation to collapse.
Eric Smith is an agent for the U.S. Government. He is involved in the search for other people in the multiverse, especially if they are related to the merchant clan which smuggled drugs and killed President Bush. He is ready to put some new technology into play in order to gain a foothold in a world which is hard to get information from.
This is the first book in a new series set in the same world as The Merchant Princes Multiverse. The main action takes place about 17 years after the last series ended. There are some returning familiar characters, but for the most part the action centers around Rita.
There are three main worlds in which the action takes place. They are each denoted by a timeline, the closest approximation to our US is timeline two. Timeline 4 holds US bases studying a world with advanced technology which had been destroyed. Timeline 3 is the one where Miriam resides with the survivors of timeline 1 which was nuked by timeline 2's government.
Technology has progressed but so has the amount of government oversight. This is a world in which big brother is definitely watching and civil liberties we take for granted are no longer available. A nuclear strike on Washington DC made this transition away from freedom to fear possible. A surveillance society is also developing in timeline 3 as they watch for incursions by timeline 2.
The people in this story are both better and worse off. They have often chosen security over freedom and that limits choices and opportunities. But the opening up of timeline travel allows the extraction of materials from unpopulated timelines which increases available resources and reduction in the amount of pollution on the main timeline. This is a tool which Harry Turtledove played with in his Crosstime Traffic series. SM Stirling also used exploitation of another timeline in his Conquistador.
I enjoyed this return to The Merchant Princes Multiverse. I look forward to the continuing series and future revelations about the other worlds. There should be plenty of action as timelines 2 and 3 face off with the possibility of another group going after them both.