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on 14 June 2009
If you haven't read any of the merchant prince novels because you've read other Charles Stross science fiction and think you won't like them, you're wrong, you will love these books.

If I'm being really honest I wish I'd waited and read the previous one, this one and the next one all at the same time as they read like one big novel, with a cliff hanger ending in the last one and this one. But the series is very compelling and I just have to read them as they appear because of the cliff hanger endings, which is the point of them I guess. There's nothing worse than waiting a year or more for the next in a series and just loosing interest completely in the intervening time, (David Louis Edelman springs to mind here).

There is one more coming next year to finish off this storyline but this series could run and run, there is just so much there to explore in the worlds Stross has created, and every book teases us just a little more with the back story.

This is an absolutely essential read but not for someone to pick up who hasn't read the previous books in the series, it doesn't stand alone. I'd thoroughly recommend going and getting the first one, by the time you've tracked them all down and read them, there will only be a short delay until The Trade of Queens is published.

My only regret is not being able to wait a month after it was published to get it for this price, I paid an American book chain twice as much and by the time it arrived it was on amazon uk for less. Ho hum.
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on 4 June 2010
The fifth installment in the series, and series-itis is rearing its head I'm afraid. It's getting a bit silly and over-the-top (you could tell that from the cover: a dude in plate armour, with a Maxim gun to one side and, errm, a nuke going off in the background) but that I can live with. It's fiction, it's entertainment, not serious literature. Unfortunately, there's rather too much politicking and I get the feeling that some fairly important background has been edited out in the process of turning the three huge books that were planned into six small books. That politicking is too opaque to the reader and takes away from the silly entertainment. And there's no chance at all that this would work in isolation - if you've not read the previous books, this will score nul points.

I still got some enjoyment from it, but there were too many points, especially in the last quarter, when I came close to just putting the book down and not finishing it. So I'm afraid that I can't recommend this.
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on 11 June 2010
I'm loving this series of books. The fourth and this, the fifth, volumes have been real page turners.

The book does end on something of a cliff-hanger - but the sixth and, for the time being, final book is now published so I'll be investing in that very shortly.

One interesting thing about reading this series is the divided loyalties you feel as a reader. There's not exactly a clear 'good' or 'bad' side of the unfolding events, so you can end up rooting for a group of people who are actually terrorists and drug-traffickers!

Anyway, it's a fun book, not to be taken too seriously, but well worth a read.
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on 22 February 2013
I have managed to read all 6 box in the correct sequence, it's a great story and is really captivating if you can manage to get hold of all them to read in the right order. Highly recommended.
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on 2 April 2010
This is book 5 in the 'Merchant Princes' series. Normally, 'book 5 in a series' raises the spectre of something running on cliches inherited from earlier books in the series. This series though continually re-invents itself and this book is no exception.

The series started in what appeared to be a classic fantasy scenario as ex-journalist Miriam Beckstein found she,had the ability to 'world walk' - jump realities between North America as we know it and one in which crime families, the Clan, operate in a feudal society, and use their limited ability to 'world walk' to extend their crime operations into the USA. Clan families fight among themselves and with a 'lost Clan' branch, living in a third alternate reality of North America. Things got more complicated when Miriam found a fourth reality, in which revolution was brewing in an early industrial Georgian monarchy, left isolated by French control of Europe.

This book starts with the American government closing in on the Clan. It has discovered that they have stolen some back-back nukes and is researching 'world walking' in order to mount an invasion, seeing the Clan's alternate reality as an easy source of oil. The Clan is having its own problems as it is under attack from without and within in its reality. Miriam has been impregnated with an heir to the vacant position of Clan chief. Understandably she is not thrilled by this and unsure about who is on her side - should she follow her mother's plan for Clan domination? Clan investigators have discovered a new fifth reality, which seems deserted but contains some relics of very advanced technology. Everything is building towards an explosive conclusion as elements of the Clan plan revenge for a nuke set off in their reality by the USA, while the US Vice-President, known only by his codename WARBUCKS, seems to be in cahoots with certain Clan elements. It is clear that the USA portrayed here is similar to, but not the same as, the one in our reality.

This is an excellent series: hopefully someone will see its television potential.
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This book is simply amazing - not the best of the Merchant Princes, but only because the sequel The Trade of Queens (Merchant Princes) - the last in the series - is fractionally better.

So. At the end of The Merchants' War (Merchant Princes) the Clan were in a perilous position, under attack from the pseudo medieval army of Gruinmarkt, an alternate history replacement for the eastern United States. This volume picks up exactly where that one left, and maintains a frenetic action laced pace throughout, flipping between Gruinmarkt, our world, and the third reality, "New Britain", a world of steam cars and revolutionary cabals. (That timeline doesn't really come into its own till the sequel, but when it does...!)

Anyway, the languors of The Clan Corporate (Merchant Princes 3) are now left long behind and the story pushes on. Miriam, the closest person to a hero in this sequence, is still trying to get some control over her life, despite the rising tide of events - not only the war in Gruinmarkt, but increasingly hostile interventions by the US security forces (Stross does their business rather well, with a dense barrage of CODENAMES, tersely described tradecraft, and numerous expletives. (And where did he find out so much about how atomic weapons work? It's rather worrying.)

Some mysteries remain, but the storylines are now being tidied up, so though there are some - actually quite a few - surprises it's a bit less baffling than the earlier ones.

A really good read: I enhanced the pleasure by denying myself this until The Trade of Queens (Merchant Princes) was out (it really is, you know!) then reading the two back to back.

There are hints form the author that he may, in a few years' time, consider a new sequence set in this universe. I do hope so. In the meantime we have The Fuller Memorandum (Laundry 3) to look forward to (am I turning into a Stross nerd? I fear so...)
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on 20 April 2010
These books really need to be read in order and this is another fantastic episode.

I really love the way Stross has taken three time periods and shows how the thinking and practices of one era, when used in another era, can lead to misunderstanding and very shocking and unexpected reactions and results.
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on 6 April 2010
Charles Stross continues this excellent series of books with another excellent book. Only problem I can say is that books are too short... cannot wait until next book is out.
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on 28 June 2010
This item was purchased for a third party who was very pleased with the packageing and speed of delivery.
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