The Family Trade (The Merchant Princes, #1)
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The Family Trade (The Merchant Princes #1)

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  2,915 ratings  ·  241 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...more
Paperback, 308 pages
Published May 1st 2005 by Tor (first published December 1st 2004)
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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...more
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...more
Ben Babcock
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
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).
Feb 16, 2009 Anna rated it 1 of 5 stars
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...more
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 4 of 5 stars
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
Megan Baxter
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
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
Sep 04, 2009 Sueij rated it 2 of 5 stars
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...more
Aug 18, 2008 Susanne rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
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
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...more
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
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).

Carol Kerry-green
Rating clarification 2.5

I never really got into this book, so won't be following up on the other five. It did have some cool things though, I loved the idea of the world-walking and that it gave you a headache! But I never really took to Miriam the lead character and I thought some of the others especially Roland were very weak characters, and I never did figure out what Miriam saw in him.
Interesting premise, and I'm curious about the focus on fantasy world economics, but the end felt rather abrupt. Yes, it's a trilogy, but I tend to prefer it when each part of a trilogy has a bit more of a conclusion to it. Still, I am looking forward to seeing where the series goes.
Supposedly brilliant journalist gets fired after failing to be brilliant enough to realize her company is part of the cover-up she's about to expose. Gets locket, travels to alternate dimension and brilliantly goes back and forth to investigate; fails to be brilliant enough to not get caught at it. Continues to go back and forth, brilliantly banging her second cousin but isn't brilliant enough to not get caught at that, either. At grand balls, she brilliantly snarks at her new family, but isn't...more
Philip Chaston
I always Stross: a knowing take on sassy females sabotaging and subordinating patriarchal structures through an understanding of networks and software. The sense of local 'social engineering' that accompanies this series does reveal the flaw that accompanies many alternate history novels: the belief in a structural explanation of society accompanied by a Whiggish proposal that individuals count where they can accelerate progress. Vernor Vinge's Tatja Grimm's World employed a similar premise.

Interesting. It sort of has only one fantasy element in it, and the rest is sort of like how this rational, intelligent woman deals with it. Which sort of made it a little slow/boring in places, though it did pick up towards the end. Definitely worth checking out the next one, at least.

A few other points:
- Not like the Laundry series really at all, not in terms of action, fantasy elements, nor dialog (I was expecting at least the same quick wit)
- So many women characters. There like 6 important...more
The heroine is an idiot and the worldbuilding is just senseless.
Mike Franklin
An excellent multiverse ‘world-walking’ setting with (acknowledged) echoes of Zelazny provides an intriguing backdrop to this very good story. The contrast between the two worlds – one medieval and one contemporary – is worked well and believably. This is fantasy with only the one piece of ‘magic’ – the world-walking itself – and otherwise just straight contemporary Earth and medieval alternative Earth. The world-walking itself is rendered more believable by the limitations placed on it; for exa...more
Jenika Ioffreda
I bought this book in a library sale for 25 pence... but I believe it is worth even less.
I couldn't even finish it.
The writing wasn't bad, the plot seemed promising and the beginning interesting... but after a few chapters I was like "WTF?"
The author of this book has some serious racist problems...
I truly didn't appreciate the NATO-propaganda style he was using talking about Kabul (third world) and Arabic people in general.
In the first chapters the main character repeats 3 times she is Jewish. S...more
These books keep reminding me of other things. The world-walkers from Zelazny's Amber and Gaiman's Interworld. Modesitt's mix of philosophy and action/adventure.

My biggest problem is that Miriam Beckstein is Superwoman. She's effectively a doctor (premed/paramedic), a much better economist than anyone else (including a Harvard economist with a head start on the same problems), a psychic judge of character (her first impressions are always correct, often more than she could even imagine until 2-3...more
Joseph Teller
Unlike most of Charles Stross's work, this is neither a collection of short stories, nor a novel length pastiche or humor-related work. Its a fairly solid cross-worlds novel, built so far around an alternative reality/Parallel world premise.

The main character is a journalist who finds out in her mid thirties that her mysterious long-dead birth mother did leave something behind that her adopted mother had been hiding that leads to a genetic heritage that transitions her from one version of Earth...more
This book will not be for everyone, but Stross should get a lot of credit for writing a "two worlds" book that doesn't deal with a lot of the typical Narnia type magic. in this book the people, Clan members, who can walk through worlds transport goods back and forth: antibiotics and a few luxury items to their medieval world, while moving drugs and contraband within our world. What better way to transport illicit goods than to hide it in another world while when the DEA shows up, or ride a few h...more
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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.

More about Charles Stross...
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