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The Family Trade (The Merchant Princes #1)

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3.49  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,084 Ratings  ·  300 Reviews
A bold fantasy in the tradition of Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber, The Merchant Princes is a sweeping new series from the hottest new writer in science fiction!

Miriam Beckstein is happy in her life. She's a successful reporter for a hi-tech magazine in Boston, making good money doing what she loves. When her researcher brings her iron-clad evidence of a money-launderi
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Paperback, 308 pages
Published May 1st 2005 by Tor Fantasy (first published December 2004)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Seth
Nov 16, 2007 Seth rated it did not like it
Shelves: sf-f-h, fantasy
Friends have been trying very hard to get me to love Stross. I liked (but didn't love) Halting State enough. This was a poor choice for a second. It may have put me off Stross all together.

The setup is simple enough:
0. Start with an interesting criminal investigation plot and abandon it in three chapters
1. Take Amber, but with only two worlds to jump between
2. Give the protagonist an almost Heinleinesque array of skills to perfectly prepare her for whatever comes up, but take away any prete
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Brendon Schrodinger
Cross-posted from my blog The Periodic Table of Elephants
3.5 Stars

'The Family Trade' is the first part of a six part series written by Stross nearly ten years ago. They have been republished in 3 volumes this year, with each volume containing two books. This is the first Stross I have read even though I know it is not his most popular work. But the concept attracted me.

Miriam Beckstein, a technology journalist, stumbles into intrigue when she is fired from her job and discovers that she can trav
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Ben Babcock
Aug 15, 2014 Ben Babcock rated it really liked it
I was under the impression that this was a science fiction book set in the far future, with a family that controlled merchant interests across a far-flung, loosely-connected human civilization. I was completely off the mark on that … and I couldn’t be happier. The word for this book, I think, is romp. Specifically, it’s a low-tech/hi-fi political and corporate intrigue and espionage romp. I love heist movies. I live for that moment where the protagonist gets a bunch of people together and says, ...more
Anna
Feb 16, 2009 Anna rated it did not like it
Shelves: sci-fi
The Family Trade is atrocious. It remains to date the worst book I've ever read.

Nothing is resolved, or even close. This isn't a case of a few loose ends, this is a case of the author was as annoyed as I was with the plot and characters and couldn't be bothered to finish the rest of this disaster. The major story Miriam was investigating and that the novel starts off with? We never hear about it again after Paulette assures Miriam she's got backup files if they want to keep pursuing the story as
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Janet
Dec 03, 2007 Janet rated it did not like it
Dear Mr. Stross: Since political and economic analysis is clearly your main interest, perhaps you should shift into the non-fiction market. If you wish to continue writing fiction, please bear in mind that readers are expecting a story, preferably one in which something happens. Page after page of exposition does not make an interesting novel.
Adult fiction (of a sort).
Sash Uusjärv
Raamat läks käima õieti alles kusagil teises pooles, sissejuhatus oli liiga pikk ja ei viinud tegelikult mitte kuhugi -- võimalik muidugi, et mingid asjad muutuvad oluliseks hilisemates osades, aga siiski muutis see esimese osa tarbetult lohisevaks. Kui käima läks, siis ikka kohe sajaga, kohe hakkas ikka niimoodi juhtuma, et tuul vilistas kõrvus ja põnevust oli enam kui küll.
Aga Strossi jutud meeldivad mulle ikka kohe palju rohkem. Ta vist ikka pigem lühivormide meister :)
***Dave Hill
May 19, 2011 ***Dave Hill rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Zelazny fans, Stross fans, magic-as-science fans
Shelves: text
It's cliche to suggest this book bears a strong inspiration to Zelazny's Amber (albeit with a bit more economics and a bit less drugs). A woman who discovers she has a blood heritage embodied in a "pattern" on a broach that allows her to travel to another world of medieval lords and feuding families ... yeah, hard to argue the basic similarity there.

That said, Stross focuses more on the pragmatic than the phantasmagoric. His protagonist, Miriam Beckstein, finds herself at the center of the plott
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Jacey
Mar 10, 2012 Jacey rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
Damn you, Charlie Stross! I was just getting into this when it ended inconclusively and thereby forcing me to immediately order the second one in the series. Yes, it's that good!

When Miriam, an investigative journalist, uncovers something dirty and takes the scoop of the century to her boss, she's immediately sacked along with the analyst whose done some of the research with her. Later, at a loose end, she visits her adoptive mother only to be given a family heirloom, a locket with a strange pat
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Tony
Feb 05, 2015 Tony rated it really liked it
My Grade = 88% - B

This book was a recommendation by a friend who shares the same nerd/geek genes as I.

This isn't exactly a summary, but an idea of what's going on:

On the day that 32 year old Miriam is fired from her investagative reporter job in Boston, her foster mother gives her a showbox with mementoes from her real mother who was killed not long after Miriam was born. In the box is a locket with a Celtic knot design. While looking at it closely that night, Miriam is transported to another la
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Leah
Mar 09, 2013 Leah rated it liked it
This is an unusual one for me. I'm not normally to be found reading a straight 'this happened, then this happened' story written with such up front language.

In one way, I feel that writing like this - general, popular fiction-style writing - is a waste of the format: why bother just writing down EVENTS HAPPENED in the most basic language you can, when you have the entire dictionary at your fingertips, just waiting to be twisted and pulled and wrangled into all kinds of contorted shapes that can
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Wealhtheow
Jan 15, 2013 Wealhtheow rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
Miriam Beckstein discovers an old locket among her birth mother's effects, and realizes that by gazing at it she can transport herself to a parallel world. Physically, the worlds are nearly identical, but her world has developed technologically far beyond the parallel world. Her long lost biological family quickly finds her and explains that she is the heir to a large fortune and, because she has the rare world-walking ability, must be part of the family business. Miriam goes along with it becau ...more
Alex
Feb 26, 2011 Alex rated it it was ok
I'm a big fan of Chuck Stross's science fiction -- SINGULARITY SKY, ACCELERANDO. But this one left me cold. Why?

For one thing, the conceit is heavily purloined from Narnia: the hero is a boring person here, but a crucial person Over (or Under) There. Neil
Gaiman found a way to take the curse off it in NEVERWHERE: his restless, mundane hero makes the mistake of helping a runaway girl from Under There, and soon starts to become a nonentity Over Here. Stross goes another way: his heroine simply mak
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Elizabeth
Jul 26, 2009 Elizabeth rated it it was ok
This is the first book in a trilogy and the premise is interesting. The main character is the long lost relative of a powerful family that can travel between two worlds. She doesn't know anything of these relatives or her special abilities until her adopted mother gives her a locket found on the body of her murdered mother and she opens it and finds herself somewhere else. Unfortunately the dialog is awkward and unnatural. The characters display emotion through their conversation that seem inapp ...more
Natalie
Aug 11, 2016 Natalie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I might have given this book a 2-star rating if it had managed to have its own story arc (instead of just being an installment in the series), but it really can't stand on its own. All it contains are an introduction to the world and some incidents. Then the book ends, and apparently we're supposed to want to jump right into the next one despite having just read 300 pages that fail on many levels: characters, a coherent setting (the mediaeval part), fashion, consistent world rules...

And seriousl
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Megan Baxter
May 19, 2014 Megan Baxter rated it liked it
This was just okay. Oddly, it had exactly the opposite problem as the last (and only other, so far) Charles Stross novel I've read so far. Neither are enough to put me off reading more. When I read Singularity Sky, I found the writing very dense, and was often at sea, with no real idea what was going on. In The Family Trade, I initially found the writing style too simplistic. Whether that changed, or I finally got into the rhythm of the book, it's hard to say. But either way, this isn't a classi ...more
Kerri Northey
Not as interesting as the impression given by the cover blurb. I found this book to be both interesting and very irritating.
The focus was on the main character dealing with unexpectedly finding herself dealing with long lost mercantile medieval family. This setting provides the back drop for that tired old plot of women fighting traditional roles in this case medieval expectations of sexual behavior, clothing, education etc. I feel that this uses a stereotype that has progressed from the meek su
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Jo
May 28, 2015 Jo rated it really liked it
Stross sets up a universe where a select genetic line has the ability to be "world-walkers" - to step between a contemporary Earth and something much more like medieval times. This first book in the series introduces Miriam Beckstein, an adoptee who discovers that her birth mother was a bit more than she bargained for, and in finding her birth family, she must also contend with a sticky web of politicial intrigue and cutthroat alliances. Looking forward to reading more of a new series by one of ...more
Sueij
Sep 04, 2009 Sueij rated it it was ok
Recommended to Sueij by: Scott
I'm all the way to Book 4 of this series, and I'm really sad that I'm so hooked on the storyline, because I'm just not really enjoying the reading experience.

On the good side, the basic concept is interesting: There are multiple worlds out there where history diverged, and a few people with a recessive trait are "world walkers" who can travel between them. Miriam is the lost child of one of these families, and (re)discovers them, her skill, and this other world.

On the down side.... (1) The whole
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Susanne
Aug 18, 2008 Susanne rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: sff
Ah Stross... Awesomeness once more. The author steps away from hard sci-fi to present a parallel-universe world walking thriller that centres on Miriam Beckstein, journalist, who first discovers that she can cross over from one world to the other and then finds out that she is a long-lost member of one of the ruling families in a society stuck in the Middle Ages.

Miriam has to adapt and learn fast to stay alive - there are factions within the ruling class that would much rather see her dead. This
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Lorena
Oct 01, 2011 Lorena rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I have to admit that I picked this up for the recommendation of "in the tradition of Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber"... and if by "in the tradition of" you mean "main character discovers magical family in a land that's not earth but they can travel between and also everyone in the family hates each other"... then yes, it is in the tradition of the Amber series. However, the main character in this book is much less motivated than Zelazny's Corwin, and also much sluttier. And I say that being ...more
J.j. Metsavana
Kui ma olek õigesti arusaanud siis plaanis Stross alguses 4x800 leheküljelist raamatut. Lõppes asi aga selliselt, et meisterdas mees valmis 600 lehelise sissejuhatuse ning seegi raiuti lõpuks kaheks eri teoseks. Põhjus miks ma selle fakti kohe esimese asjana esile toon seisneb selles, et kogu raamat mõjus ühe pikaks venitatud sissejuhatusena. Võrreldes antud teost Zelazny Amberiga (jah, sellest võrdlusest on võimatu hoiduda) siis läks vanameistril lugu kohe esimestest lehtedest pauguga käima ja ...more
Laylah
Feb 11, 2011 Laylah rated it it was amazing
Oh man, what a page-turner. (And what an ending! I need to get my hands on the second one. In a hurry.) I loved this one.

This book takes a single otherworldly premise -- what if there were a genetic ability to move between our Earth and a parallel world with different history? -- and develops it in fascinating, plausible ways that depend on real history, real economics, and real human politicking. Labyrinthine schemes and adventures! Shifting allegiances! Smart, adaptable characters! It's good s
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Claire
Jan 08, 2013 Claire rated it it was ok
Props for having a female protagonist who has actual conversations with other women but other than that the book left me feeling a little something was lacking. Now I don't know what would happen if I were thrown into a quasi medieval other world with drug smuggling relatives making me a countess but somehow Miriam's reactions didn't quite seem right. Although, luckily, Miriam has done pre med and journalism (and she lives in the US) which has equipped her to deal with most situations by shootin ...more
Baal Of
Dec 27, 2014 Baal Of rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
Not as good as other Stross books, but still reasonably enjoyable. I've already been warned by friends that it gets less good, but I already have all the books sitting on my shelves, so I guess I'm committed. The story line has some potential.
Kristi Roost
Jul 12, 2016 Kristi Roost rated it really liked it
Witty and a tad steampunkish. A good read.
Joe Slavinsky
Jan 16, 2016 Joe Slavinsky rated it really liked it
Charles Stross has become my most recent favorite author. My introduction to his work, was "Glasshouse", a hard science fiction novel, followed by "Saturn's Children", and "Accelerando"(which, I admit, was so convoluted that I couldn't finish it - yet.), both essentially in the same genre. Then, I stumbled upon "The Laundry File", as series about a little-known secret division of British Intelligence, charged with protecting the world, in general, and the UK in particular, from all things metaph ...more
Samantha
Aug 11, 2015 Samantha rated it did not like it
I've read, and enjoyed, some of Mr. Stross' more recent books and stories, and I enjoy books where real world characters get sucked into a fantasy realm, so I had high hopes for "The Family Trade."

I wound up deeply disappointed.

There are some interesting ideas in here, that's for sure, and I did manage to finish it, but - the book was crippled by unbelievable characters that are little more than vague sketches. The main character is apparently, a scientist, a journalist and an expert businesswom
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Claudia
May 12, 2015 Claudia rated it it was ok
This was an experiment for me. I don't generally like fantasy, but I do like science fiction, and I really like several of Charles Stross's books/series, especially his Laundry series and Halting State. So, how would I do with a fantasy book, set at least partially in my own city, by an author I really like (and, full disclosure, am friends with in real life)?

Answer: Not well. Sigh.

In fairness, this is one of Charlie's early books. He's developed a lot as an author since then, so it's a bit unfa
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William Leight
Jan 03, 2015 William Leight rated it liked it
This is a solid and workmanlike read, but it lacks the imaginative reach that marks Stross's best work. Basically it's a thriller, chronicling the intrigue inside what's essentially a Mafia family when an unexpected heir is discovered, only this particular crime family earns its vast wealth and power from its members' ability to move back and forth between our Earth and a parallel-universe one which is stuck at roughly a Renaissance level of technology. Our heroine, Miriam Beckstein, is the lost ...more
Benjamin
One of the main reasons that this is not a great book (possibly not even a good book) is that it was never meant to be a book in the first place: As Stross notes on his blog (and in the introduction to the corrected reissue), he was writing three big techno-thriller science fiction books that got cut into six books that were sold as portal fantasy. So if I say this book ends at an odd point, I'm speaking both subjectively (it feels weird) and objectively (it was never supposed to end here).

There
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Charles David George "Charlie" Stross is a writer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. His works range from science fiction and Lovecraftian horror to fantasy.

Stross is sometimes regarded as being part of a new generation of British science fiction writers who specialise in hard science fiction and space opera. His contemporaries include Alastair Reynolds, Ken MacLeod, Liz Williams and Richard Morgan.

SF
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More about Charles Stross...

Other Books in the Series

The Merchant Princes (6 books)
  • The Hidden Family (The Merchant Princes, #2)
  • The Clan Corporate (The Merchant Princes, #3)
  • The Merchants' War (The Merchant Princes, #4)
  • The Revolution Business (The Merchant Princes, #5)
  • The Trade of Queens (The Merchant Princes, #6)

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