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The Family Trade

(The Merchant Princes #1)

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3.52  ·  Rating details ·  5,292 ratings  ·  402 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
...more
Paperback, 308 pages
Published May 1st 2005 by Tor Fantasy (first published December 2004)
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Average rating 3.52  · 
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 ·  5,292 ratings  ·  402 reviews


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Megan Baxter
Apr 02, 2013 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 ...more
Seth
Nov 06, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy, sf-f-h
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
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Anna
Feb 16, 2009 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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B 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
...more
Ben Babcock
Jul 16, 2012 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
Janet
Dec 03, 2007 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).
Richard Derus
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Rating: 4.5* of five, rounded up because DAYUM!
Peter Tillman
I liked this book a lot in 2005, but never reviewed it. Nicholas Whyte has a good review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Stross's story notes, as usual, make interesting reading: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-... (no real spoilers, that I saw). It's the story of how the Merchant Princes series came to be, about the publishing business, and about the writing process for the series. It’s quite a story:
“The first six Merchant Princes books weigh in at 640,000 words. I had to
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Nicholas Whyte
http://nhw.livejournal.com/493161.html[return][return]I had been looking forward to reading this for some time. Reviews that I had skimmed (and indeed hints dropped by the author) led me to understand that it borrows the feudal and feuding families who can walk between the worlds of Roger Zelazny's Amber series, a firm favourite of mine from an early age. But my anticipation was mixed with a little trepidation: even Zelazny was unable to really pull it off in the end - while the Amber books ...more
Johnny
Apr 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Ideas of parallel instances of a multiverse have been fascinating to me ever since I read some of Michael Moorcock’s classic fantasies, Stephen A. Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (both iterations), the marvelous Arthurian retelling of Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry, and even, to some degree Terry Brooks’ Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold series. Of course, I generally think of former Adobe “mathonaut” Rudy Rucker’s novels dealing with multiple realities when I think of multiverse ...more
Denise
Jul 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I guess what it comes down to with this one is I just didn't get it.

I didn't get how the parallel worlds worked, I didn't get why some things could move to the other world but other things could not. I didn't understand why someone would stay in medieval world (with no running water, indoor sanitation, spending 3 days to travel 200 miles etc) if they didn't have to. I didn't understand the relationships of the clans, and why they were mafioso families. I just didn't get it.

I did not get why
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Alex
Feb 26, 2011 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
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Leah
Mar 09, 2013 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
...more
***Dave Hill
May 19, 2011 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
...more
Wealhtheow
Aug 06, 2012 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 ...more
Jacey
Mar 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
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
...more
Susan
Sep 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Susan 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
Natalie aka Tannat
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
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Elizabeth
Jul 26, 2009 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 ...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
...more
Wing Kee
May 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Not an entirely original premise and a story that doesn't stand alone makes this book problematic.

World: The world building is okay, this time of premise has been done before and the scenarios and the pieces of the world has been seen many times, the book even calls out Sliders the TV show at a point. That being said it at least does try to provide as much internal logic as it can though at times it's still somewhat lacking and this book really needs a way to call the two world differently for
...more
Debbie
Apr 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, fantasy, scfi
I LIVED the Amber stories so I was excited to read this. I can certainly see the homage the author is making to the stories. I enjoyed this one but it ends on a cliff hanger and am waiting for the second part from the library. Miriam is a kick-ass character and I like the group of women she is assembling around her to protect herself and to take on the Clan. Go Miriam.
Joe Jungers
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well now - that was fun.
And a quick read too.

I was reminded a bit of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
except sub in Boston, Journalist, & Medici/Borgia where appropriate .

On to Book 2 - The Hidden Family...
Helen
Dec 21, 2018 rated it liked it
The time travel element is a lateral one, more like a space travel. In a parallel universe there are people who can "world walk", go from one universe to its equivalent site here. They have made themselves wealthy in that world by (at first) smuggling gold and gems across the space barrier and then drugs. The ability to cross is genetically linked and marriages are made to keep that gene present, because it is recessive.
Miriam Bechstein was adopted as a six week old baby found beside her
...more
Patrick
Feb 12, 2013 rated it liked it
One of my flatmates only really reads science fiction. His complaint about most mainstream 'literary' fiction is that it is devoid of ideas and 'nothing much happens'. I might counter that a lot of science fiction and fantasy suffers for having characters who feel like perfunctory cardboard cutouts and writing that is formulaic to the point it interferes with my ability to suspend disbelief and forget that its only a story...but he does have a point when he says that science fiction is where the ...more
Tony
Jan 19, 2015 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
...more
Susanne
Aug 12, 2008 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
...more
Laylah Hunter
Feb 10, 2011 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
...more
Claire
Jan 08, 2013 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 ...more
Riotkittin
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned, fantasy, the-blands
Well, that book really wasn't any good. The story isn't told in a good way, I'm rather confused with some parts.
Might read the next part of the series just to see if I can understand more about it, but I'm not that interested to know more either. The MC are also a bit... badly written. I can't really see what her motivations for a lot of stuff is. And also the "love" part of the story are really confusing. She's had a one-night-thing with another person and suddenly he's her "love of the life"
...more
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4,638 followers
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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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)