(2006/2008) Charles Stross, Tor (UK), £6.99, pbk, 310pp, ISBN 978-0-330-46094-1
Miriam, a young business journalist from Boston, discovers that she can travel between alternative Earths and that her family (that has the gene for dimension jumping) originates on a parallel timeline and uses their abilities for commercial gain. However the family's home parallel Earth is technologically less sophisticated than our timeline and its inhabitants are more ruthless having had to live a harsher life. Miriam finds herself an unwilling pawn in a power struggle and somewhat overshadowed by it all. Meanwhile back in our continuum the US authorities begin to realise that something is up and start to investigate…
Despite Stross being British and living here this was first published in 2006 in the US, the first UK paperback release was only in late 2008. This muddled publishing schedule meant that I had put this book at the bottom of my review pile until now (late 2009), which is unfortunate as Stross is a brilliant SF storyteller and Concat' deserved to be alerted of this sooner. (Ed': which is why the seasonal science fiction newscast has a forthcoming books section.) Both Tony and I like Charles Stross' writing a lot and I think Graham does too. Indeed The Clan Corporate does not disappoint, it is a right rollicking read. OK, so it is a one-trick book: folk jump between one or two alternate realities in a way reminiscent of magic and so it is really science fantasy (not hard SF) but the alternate worlds are interesting in their own right and the story is an adventure with a fast-paced momentum that keeps the pages turning.
Readers will notice that this is 'Book Three of the Merchant Princes' series. Not having read the first two I wondered whether I would struggle not knowing the backstory? 'Nope', is the answer. You can jump right into the middle of this series and enjoy the romp straightaway without any worries. Indeed having read book three I will certainly read the first two if they come my way or I come across them in a bookshop. Equally, as The Clan Corporate ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, I will be looking out for the next in the series. At the beginning of this new millennium Stross is one of the current generation of writers that continues to keep the British Isles (if not Europe) at the forefront of speculative fiction. If you have not already then do try him out.
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