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3.3 out of 5 stars11
3.3 out of 5 stars
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This is the third of a continuing series, a parallel worlds saga spanning (so far) three different timelines. I think it's safe to say that if you are still reading at book 3, then you enjoy the series - and if you don't like them, you will have stopped. Either way I don't think this will change your mind.

For my part, I am enjoying this series. I don't think they're great writing, but I like seeing Stross set out his canvas and set to work filling in the detail. And I find the central dilemma of Miriam, the main protagonist, interesting.

That said, this volume is mildly frustrating because, apart from one or two jaunts, Miriam is - frankly - trapped through most of the book, unable to drive the plot forward, but only to react - hence only three stars.

Developments are brewing but they don't really link up before the end of the book. I think there will probably be fireworks in the next installment (due in 2007?) which I certainly look forward to.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Miriam is definitely stuck in this book. She is discovering just what her role is in this mideval society that her relatives come from. Things are not quite as black and white as she might have thought and her enemies are not always who she had thought. Friends are being shunted to the side or even killed and Miriam is left increasingly alone in a society where a woman's role is to bear children - period.

For Miriam this is incredibly unfair. She feels that she has built a successful business in world 3 - a business that is left in the hands of a less than competent male relative. Her life is in increasing danger from her uncles and her mother is manipulating things in a manner that leaves Miriam feeling more and more helpless.

The ending was a bit abrupt and extremely unfinished - intentional on the part of the author I'm certain. This way we HAVE to buy no. 4.

I have enjoyed this series. This book is no exception.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 25 July 2009
Number three in the series, this book really takes its time to get going, but after a hundred pages of meh it picks up and is back to the pace and quality of its pre-decessor. Again, like The Hidden Family this is the first half of a larger story that got split for some reason, but the split is handled better this time, ending on a nice cliff-hanger but without too many loose ends. As the third installment in a large series, there is of course the problem of how to bring a new reader up to speed who hasn't read the earlier volumes, but this is done without the repetition being too irritating for someone who has started at the beginning. My only niggle is that some exposition is handled somewhat maladroitly as "transcripts" of bugged conversations, but these transcripts (and the organisations and people making them) aren't obviously used. Perhaps they'll show up in a later volume. But I can forgive this, as to a large extent these solve the problem I noted in The Family Trade, that the plots and schemes within plots and schemes are too opaque to the reader. These serve to remove the veils somewhat. Again, I recommend it, but with the proviso that it will work a lot better if you've read the previous two books.
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on 19 January 2013
I bought this a few months ago, started it, got distracted, picked it up a few weeks later, stopped...
started.... tried again... get the picture?

I never do this with a book. I consume them. In large gulps of focused absorption. If I give up on a book it is usually because of incompetent plot twists, incongruous pink fluffy stuff, or ridiculous characterisation (God, don't I sound arrogant?!?). Nothing like that here. I like Miriam, and the whole plot/world(s) hang together very well.

So, considering how much I enjoyed book 1 (and less so book 2) in this series, and how I delight in some of Stross' other work, I have tried to work out why this one is so blandly indigestible.

I think it is just too long and too detailed for the amount of plot. The main character Miriam is a woman of action paralysed by situation, the complex detail of social, political and legal minutiae in three, yes THREE different worlds is too dry to hold my attention, and what action there is didn't kick off until I had skipped a few too many paragraphs on otherworld politics or the inner mechanics of American law-keeping. Yawn. And of course, by then I couldn't even remember in which world the current chapter was set.

So I have given up, 2/3 of the way through, with no real clue as to what has been happening for the last half book. And no inclination to ever pick up a book 4.

Such a pity. I really wanted this book to get back to the form of the first one. It is such a brilliant concept. Such a fantastic opportunity to romp (and Stross can certainly romp in his other books). I was brought up on Zelazny's Amber novels, and Jack L Chalker's various operas. Both writers have limitations that Stross does not. If you don't believe me, try his Laundry novels. What was he going to achieve with world walking, and a limitless blank page? Something to rival The Culture, perhaps?

Unfortunately not. Instead we are given Corporate legalese (book 2) and stodgy inactivity (book 3).

I'm really sorry to give up on this series but it is done now, off to faster, more grippingly immersive experiences.
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on 9 November 2010
In the Merchant Princes sequence, Charles Stross gives us Miriam Beckstein, a technology journalist with business sense and an unexpected ability to travel between parallel worlds.

The first two books (which were actually written as one book then chopped up for publishing purposes) threw Miriam into a parallel world where she found she was part of a genetic dynasty that could world walk between a more backward version of Earth, and our time. This Clan used this ability to make money by smuggling and profiteering on high technology. Miriam gets threatened, discovers yet another parallel world, gets ensnared in Clan politics, tries to cut her way out with a clever business plan, and ends up with a mix of success and tragedy.

The Clan Corporate shows us the consequences of an independent woman getting ahead in a man's world: she gets sat on, hard. Unfortunately, this means much of the book is Miriam being annoyed and frustrated, which isn't actually very much fun. I found myself more interested in the other main strand, as consequences of the Clan's activities in our world start to kick in, and Stross introduces a promising new character. In addition, there are occasional teasers of surveillance transcripts and the like, hinting at anonymous conspiracies.

Given that the first two books were a fun romp in the spirit of Roger Zelazny, this is a bit disappointing. Ultimately, I think this book should be viewed as Stross setting up further parts to come. Given that one of Stross's strengths is writing standalone books that can be read out of sequence this is a dip in form. That said, this is still an interesting setting with engaging characters, and I would advise persevering with the series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 2009
A disappointment after the first two books. Stross is a very good novelist but the writing in this book feels rushed with too much anachronistic dialogue and slow plot development. It is also a great shame that he resorts to manipulating the reader with these cliffhanger endings. Other writers seem able to deliver long-running series with multiple story arcs yet at the same time provide a coherent, self-contained narrative to each book. If he carries on in this stlye, all Charles Stross will do is end up alienating fans.
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on 30 November 2010
I've always believed that every book of a series needs to be able stand alone, as a valid novel in its own right. These don't, partly because Tor chopped each one in half, partly because of Stross's habit of ending on a cliffhanger. This is more of a single novel in several volumes, and viwed in that light, it works.

It's not without faults; I like a novel to be like a symphony, with fast bits and slow bits, loud bits and quiet bits, but the pace never slows. My usual criticism of fast-paced novels is that they're too superficial, but this one gets away with it through sheer length; it has time to fill in the details. There are too many cliffhangers for my taste; too many crises all happening at once, but never mind. It's good fun.

This is the first half of what was planned as the second book; more complications emerge; perhaps not so much happens, but if you have the next volume, it doesn't matter.
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on 22 September 2013
This book is about world walking, but it is more about alternate world : what would have happened if the Vikings had settled in America? Or if the wars between the French and English crown had resulted into a Prussian like English Kingdom in North America? Such are the world depicted, and the adventures of Miriam Beckstein are fascinating.
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on 12 January 2013
The "Merchant Princes"series have to be read consecutively.This,the third,is just as good as the first two.The plot is often complex,with events happening in three parallel worlds simultaneously.The only reason that I did not give five stars is that I prefer this authors "Laundry" series.
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on 8 December 2012
Interesting story line but I wanted the plot to move on a bit more.

The Characters are engaging, I like his style.

Looking forward to the next one.
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