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Dark State

(Empire Games #2)

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,555 ratings  ·  130 reviews
Dark State is the second book in an exciting series in the same world as Charles Stross' Merchant Princes series, following Empire Games.

In the near-future, the collision of two nuclear superpowers across timelines, one in the midst of a technological revolution and the other a hyper-police state, is imminent. In Commissioner Miriam Burgeson’s timeline, her top level agent
Paperback, 352 pages
Published January 11th 2018 by Tor Books UK (first published January 2018)
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Charles Stross DARK STATE is the middle volume of the EMPIRE GAMES trilogy, to be concluded in INVISIBLE SUN (in January 2019). Not a stand-alone — it's a single epi…moreDARK STATE is the middle volume of the EMPIRE GAMES trilogy, to be concluded in INVISIBLE SUN (in January 2019). Not a stand-alone — it's a single epic-length story (around 1200 pages).(less)

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Average rating 4.18  · 
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Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This second (or eighth) novel in Stross's Merchant Princes universe is continuing the new and interesting tack that began in Empire Games.

First of all, some background. There's three alternate timelines and world-walkers, jaunters, and on our timeline, there's now tech that allows us to hop timelines and possibly exploit entire green Earths, not just the three inhabited ones.

All of this gets very sticky because we have a super-paranoid State, the United States of a slightly different our world t
David Harris
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I always look forward to Stross's books, and I've been following his stories of world walkers since the start of the Merchant Princes sequence (in its original, six volume, form). So this is the 8th book in that series I have read, and I'm glad to be able to say that Stross is successfully keeping the books fresh, while engaging with events whose seeds were sown right back at the start.

He's done this by successively widening the scope. We began with one woman, Miriam Beckstein (now Burgeson) who
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Stross's America from timeline #2 is the scariest distopia that I believe that I've read because it's so firmly anchored in our own reality. Just one additional big terrorist attack in 2003 (i.e. the previous Family Trade books) & the country went full-on Authoritarian Police state by 2020.

Was frustrated when the Appendix hit because I was not ready for the book to be over with the cliffhanger it had. After calming down, I found Stross's history of Timeline #3's differences to our own a FASCINA
Mar 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sf, fiction
Another cliffhanger ending with an info dump at the very last to fool you into thinking there might be hope of at least an intermediate resolution of some of the many threads. Wait for the last book before reading this series, Stross tosses a bucket of balls in the air and expects you to track them all over a two year publishing cycle.
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Low rating by other people, but odd there's any rating at all, book's not out yet at this time (7-26-17) ...more
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second book in the Empire Games trilogy, which is itself a loose continuation of the earlier "Merchant Princes" series. Stross is applying his fearsome imagination to a scenario of alternate timelines where a limited number of people are able to switch between worlds. Being Stross, this isn't a facile "but what if Hitler won?" scenario but a deep exploration of how small differences in technology and politics could have had spectacular effects. Also, being Stross, having come up with ...more
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-read-2018
Picking right up where Empire Games left off, Rita the world-walker is back in her home America. Her handlers are slightly disturbed that she was picked up so quickly and the message that she has returned with has allsorts of ominous overtones. The politics of that country are beginning to crack as the health of the leader reaches a certain point, and Miriam Burgeson sees that there might be an opportunity to get a high-profile defector on her side and diffuse the situation.

After an intense deb
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Charles Stross remains true to form in the middle entry of the Empire Games trilogy. I'm trying to review everything I read this year, which puts me in the awkward position of reviewing a single book far into the series.

I definitely find myself preferring Empire Games to the Merchant Princes series, mostly because, while well written and still enjoyable, the medieval court intrigue just wasn't quite as much my cup of tea, though it might benefit from a re-reading now that I know what twists to e
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Don't bother reading this one if you haven't read Empire Games. If you DID read Empire Games, and enjoyed it, then you definitely want this one. It's maybe a little technical-stuff heavy, there is one self-evidently lolarious coincidence that I saw coming, and it ends on a cliffhanger, but I think this is basically a solid middle book in this series. I want to know what happens next!

(Mostly because I love Rita and Angie. RITAAAAAAAAA.)
Sean Randall
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Obviously, there’s a lot more action to come in this series. I very much enjoyed the first of these books last year and this follow-up didn’t disappoint. It’s a very cleverly-plotted series without a doubt.
Jul 19, 2018 rated it liked it
I really wanted to score this higher than three stars. I've enjoyed pretty much everything that Stross has written and this is still excellent quality.... but every single plot thread was left on a cliff hanger ending. I am normally happy when authors that I enjoy write multi-book series. But they generally give us some sense of closure at the end of each book. Please close off a sub-plot or two while leaving the overall arc open. Otherwise readers like me will not buy books until the whole seri ...more
Shhhhh Ahhhhh
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
Interesting twist. I think that this will, in time, be recognized as one of the better works of sci fi ever made (as a series, if and when he completes it). It takes a premise, one that's even been done before, and runs with it in a way that never has. Most importantly, the sequel didn't suck, which seems to be some sort of litmus test for how good an idea really is (IME). I'll be waiting on baited breath for a full year for the next one. ...more
A bit confused. Too many story-lines and not enough progress on any of them nor enough depth. And in the end nothing was resolved. But lots of potential. I wish we got to know the pov characters more. The next book looks pretty set up though so might be quite a bit better. 3.5 of 5.
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Stross, Charles. Dark State. Empire Games No. 2. Tor, 2018.
Historical fiction is usually based on a “what if” premise. In 1814, Sir Walter Scott asked in Waverly what if we could see the Jacobite Rebellion through the eyes of a romantic young man. In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court Mark Twain asked what if Yankee ingenuity and materialism were introduced into Medieval culture. Twain’s time traveler, though, does not affect the flow of history. In Alternate histories, science fiction
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a bridge novel; Stross's book series usually go through a three-volume format: book one introduces the main characters, book two gets them into place, and book three is where everything hits the fan. Most of this volume is all about getting the pieces into their places. There's not a whole lot of action, just a lot of conversation and politics (especially in regards to Rita). All of that is interesting but not particularly motivating. But then the last 50 pages of this book... everything ...more
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scifi, politics
Amazing. I started reading the Merchant Princes series a decade ago and it is getting better and better. The first book, The Family Trade, was good but not spectacularly so. If was only after the first six books got republished as a trilogy that I got hooked. This series is spectacular in its complexity: different timelines (parallel universes), science fiction, espionage, (nuclear) war, political thriller, a bit of romance, factions within factions, ... The only downside is that I probably will ...more
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
Better than its predecessor, "Empire Games" (Merchant Princes #7) this book at least moves the plot along a bit. We are left hanging at the end and various sub-plots appear to have nothing to do with the mainline plot of this or previous novels. The third in this sub-series (due January 2019, we're told) will be masterful if it's to tie off the various sub-plots. For it to explain away the plot and factual inconsistencies to date would be a ridiculous expectation.

Like its predecessor this novel
Apr 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
My Rating Scale:
1 Star - Horrible book, It was so bad I stopped reading it. I have not read the whole book and wont
2 Star - Bad book, I forced myself to finish it and do NOT recommend. I can't believe I read it once
3 Star - Average book, Was entertaining but nothing special. No plans to ever re-read
4 Star - Good Book, Was a really good book and I would recommend. I am Likely to re-read this book
5 Star - GREAT book, A great story and well written. I can't wait for the next book. I Will Re-Read th
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinated by Mr. Stross' worlds and very much afraid that the US is definitely headed in this direction. Sometimes it's difficult to tell whether Stross is exaggerating, making things up, or just reporting on the way things are. It sounds as if everyone is trying to make sure proper talks take place but things keep moving as if there is an inevitability to things.
The book ends with nothing resolved, dangerous events about ready to blow up, the princess in danger, and nothing resolved.
Boo, hiss!
Jun 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Charles Stross is a writer producing very readable and enjoyable books and this continuation of the Traders Clan is no exception. Unfortunately, the book terminates partway through the stories of its protagonists and now, annoyingly, I have to wait till the next instalment arrives. That explains the rating.
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I want the next one right now. I couldn't stop until I finished. ...more
Dev Null
Still really enjoying this series. I like (for values of like including "enjoy reading about" but definitely not including "hope to see some day") the elements of parallel-America-as-a-high-tech-police-state. And the elements of old-school coldwar-era spycraft. And the whole convoluted parallel-history Europe. And the stories of Rita and her birth-mother and her grandfather and them all meeting and being a bit screwed up but eventually coping, etc.


(You knew there was a "but" in here somewher
Dan Drake
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Let's begin with Varley's Slow Apocalypse: it's present-time or near-future science fiction. As fiction -- as a novel/story -- it's nothing too special. (You might say it's...ahem...nothing to write home about.) But the "science" part is brilliant: it made me think about the world around me, about our civilization's dependence on fossil fuels, and how technology and science influence and are influenced by our society. That part of the book has really stayed with me.

Stross' Merchant Princes books
Ken Richards
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
'Dark State' picks up where 'Empire Games' left off. This is now the eighth Merchant Princes book and as a consequence the backstory and history is increasingly Byzantine. As always, the tale is well constructed and generally well paced. In this volume, Stross leaves the recounting of the historical underpinnings of the 'Commonwealth' timeline, in which most of the action is focused in this installment, to an appendix after the cliffhanger conclusion, thus avoiding infodumps which to an extend b ...more
Mar 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Frikkin' zeppelins.

I've got no physics knowledge, and a quick Google / Wikipedia failed to enlighten me on any scientific basis for a multiverse / multiple reality theory. But I'm given to understand that there could be any number of universes out there. And according to all the multiple universe stuff I've read / seen, apparently they could be very similar to our own world, or very different but according to some immutable rule they must have zeppelins!!.

Okay, so the zeppelins make o
Andy Taylor
Great follow up to the first book in the series. Dark State takes what was outlined in Empire Games and piles on the layers of political intrigue and cross-world high stakes drama as we get more of Elizabeth Hanover's story as a princess in exile and a continuation of Rita Douglas's growing involvement as a world walker working under duress for a secret agency operating out of the Department of Homeland Security in a timeline that has diverged from our own.

Charles Stross does a great job of comb
Colin Murtagh
This picks up from where Empire Games finishes, so if you've not read it, you really need to go back and read that first, or this will make no sense. Rita is walking between worlds, acting as an intermediary between the US and the commonwealth while still trying to work out the relationship with her mother and grandfather.
At the same time the first man is close to death, with the succession and factional problems that is going to bring, giving Miriam Burgeson her own problems.
Then there is the
William Tracy
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This one is just as good as the first book of Stross' new series. This keeps up the tension, and adds some more depth to the complexities of diplomacy between two superpowers across parallel Earths. The characters continue to be riveting, and the James Bond type schemes that fill this volume make you continually wonder what small hitch is going to bring everything down.
I also really enjoyed the side story (which I'm sure will become major in another book or so) about the research the US is doing
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I did! I did like this book better than the first book, and I think I was right--it entirely comes down to the mood I was in when I first received this series. Stross's braiding of alternate universes takes some investment--of time, and energy, and a willingness to constantly refer to the lists and glossaries and appendices and other materials in the front and back of the book--but that investment pays off. If you have the resources to invest, which I didn't the first time around. This book does ...more
James Kemp
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Dark State is the middle book in a trilogy, and leaves us on a multi-threaded set of cliffhangers waiting for the final instalment in January 2019.

The story continues from where Empire Games left off, with nary a beat missed. Paranoia is set to eleventy one and everyone is watching everybody else. We have four major threads to follow.
Rita and her official mission with the US Dept of Homeland Security.
Rita's girlfriend and grandfather and the Wolf Orchestra trying to save Rita from DHS.
Major Hu
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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.


Other books in the series

Empire Games (3 books)
  • Empire Games (Empire Games #1, Merchant Princes Universe #7)
  • Invisible Sun

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