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Empire Games

(Empire Games #1)

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  2,213 ratings  ·  227 reviews
Hugo Award-winning author Charlie Stross hits the ground running with Empire Games, provocative techno-thriller and fresh storyline in the Merchant Princes universe.

It's 2020. Two nuclear superpowers across timelines, one in the midst of a technological revolution and the other a hyper-police state, are set on a collision course. Each timeline's increasingly desperate para
Paperback, 336 pages
Published December 5th 2017 by Tor Books (first published January 17th 2017)
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Alice I'd definitely reccommend reading the Merchant Princes series first. There's a whole load of context you'll miss without it. But if you're quick to…moreI'd definitely reccommend reading the Merchant Princes series first. There's a whole load of context you'll miss without it. But if you're quick to pick up contextual clues and read the timelines breakdown before the story itself begins, you'll probably enjoy it well enough. There's a new protagonist compared to previous books, so it's not absolutely essential. But you will have some major plot points from the earlier books spoiled if you read Empire Games first.(less)
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4.02  · 
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I put off reading this Stross novel for the weirdest of reasons. I assumed, based on the blurb, (if not the series caption,) that it was part of the Merchant Princes books.

I was right. And I was wrong.

Much time has passed since the events of those Merchant Princes novels. We get to return to Miriam and her beau and her missing child, but best of all, the Merchant Princes are DONE. Revolution and a new government have taken over this alternate timeline, but as with all these Princes, there's a bi
Peter Tillman
This is the continuation of the Merchant Princes series, a new trilogy. Actually, the Princes are pretty much dead or in hiding, since the USA nuked the Gruinmarkt after the Clan's ill-considered decapitation strike on the White House with a stolen nuke. (This isn't really a spoiler, btw, since it's in the prologue.) It's really, really good. And self-contained, though reading the previous books will help understand What Came Before. Plus those were (mostly) good books.

As always, your first ste
David Harris
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm grateful to the publisher for an advance copy via NetGalley

One of my most anticipated books for 2017, Empire Games picks up the story of the world-walking Clan seventeen years on.

In Stross's multi-timeline Merchant Princes sequence (originally published as 6 books, collected as The Bloodline Feud, The Traders' War and The Revolution Trade) we saw the collision between the Clan and modern US society. It's 2020 in the four alternate timelines we saw in the earlier books. Not much is happening
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ive never read a Stross novel before but I think it may have helped with this series. The Merchant series supposedly links with this within the same world. However I was told this was easily readable by itself. I didnt find this thr case. The first 100 pages were personally a chore. I honestly didnt find any characters interesting and the political schemes/issues themes just were too complex and not inviting with regards to the plot. Im willing to give him another shot but maybe I'll start at a ...more
Margaret Sankey
I usually love Stross' work, but this started out with the kind of background material you see in the 5th book of a series--four different timeline, with people able to move between them and all the divergent events, then character profiles of people I didn't particularly care about. By the time I got to the actual story (which should have contained this material rather than expect me to study up and then read it), it was both too complicated and too flat.
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2017
Seventeen years ago the Monarch of the New British Empire was overthrown. Since then power has steadily transferred to the North American Commonwealth. They are on course to defeat the French and return democracy once again. However, the commissioner of the shadowy Ministry of Intertemporal Research and Intelligence tasked with monitoring the movement of people through the paratime links between the parallel worlds has been warning that the Americans are coming. No one believed Miriam Burgeson b ...more
Andrew Hickey
Apologies to the few people who follow my blog via its Goodreads syndication, as you will see this review twice...
(This will contain spoilers, not for this book, but for the Merchant Princes series).

Charles Stross is one of those authors whose work I find very variable. Some (for example Glasshouse) is among the best SF written in the last few decades, some (the Laundry Files series) is imaginative but lightweight fun pulp adventure, and some (notably Singularity Sky) I find almost impossible to
Apr 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Enterprising types
Recommended to Alan by: Previous work
I'd actually fallen away from Charles Stross' Merchant Princes series some volumes ago, but this fresh start (which isn't a reboot, just a sharp change in direction) gave me a good reason to venture back in. This turned out to be a good decision—I kinda devoured this book. Towards the end, especially (about which more later), I had a hard time putting it down even to finish mundane tasks like brushing my teeth.

And don't worry; the brief character sketches and synopsis of the major timelines incl
Julie S
This is a hard one to rate because it’s both the start of a new trilogy and the continuation of a previous series. This book has sci-fi and Cold War elements. I guess it would make some sense without reading the previous Family Trade books but you would be better starting with those first.
Wilde Sky
A woman is recruited to move between different dimensions / timeliness.

I couldn't get into this book, I found the characters / dialogue / writing all a bit clunky, but I am probably not the target audience.
Apr 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I must admit this book disappointed me. The early part of the novel hinted strongly that this would develop into a thriller. As far as I am concerned it never became full blown thriller. It was fairly well written but to many scenes simply fell flat. On the plus side the idea of conflicts between different time lines worked fairly well. In addition, without creating a plot spoiler, the resolution to the novel is convincing.
Sep 21, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kristen Shaw
This was a mostly good read, though I found it difficult to keep track of characters and side plots (even with the character list and the summaries of time lines at the beginning). Rita is a great character and I thoroughly enjoyed following her story - all the other plots were very 'meh' for me (I'm not a fan of government spy thrillers, though, so there you go). I haven't read the preceding trilogy set in the same worlds, so perhaps this lack of backstory contributed to my occasional confusion ...more
Paul Sherman
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great continuation of the Merchant Princes universe

After plowing through the Merchant Princes series last year, I was worried that this fictional universe was played out, or just plain broken, overtaken by reality. I was wrong. Stross has rescued it from irrelevance with the neat trick of making "our" timeline just one of the many divergent alternate universes, which has the effect of breathing new life into this series and opening up an infinitude of possibilities. Most important, it's just a c
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first two books of a trilogy set in the Merchant Princes' universe sustain the intrigue and suspense of the original series and contain many familiar faces. Now, here's hoping I can remember all of the details long enough for the final book to be released...
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Great read. And that ending *shivers*.
I picked this up because I was in the mood for some science fiction, and because, while I had enjoyed the one other Stross novel I had read, I wanted to see more of his range. My other Stross novel was the first Laundry Files book, which I would consider urban fantasy with horror elements, so I thought his take on science fiction might be interesting. Unfortunately, I wasn't overly impressed, and I think part of that is a gap between my expectations and reality. I was expecting big concept scien ...more
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Should probably be 4.5 stars, tbh.
On the plus side, this is one of the best books written by Charles Stross. So great ideas, intelligence and wit.
On the minus side, it is still a book written by Charles Stross. So, it's written by a squirrel with ADHD and much more interest in science than in human beings.
So, we have an incredibly generic character which is supposed to be independent and badass (and lesbian and millenial, to differentiate her from the equally uninteresting heroine of the previou
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We're up to the year 2020, people are aging (of course) and we're moving into a whole new time. Miriam and Erasmus have married and are both ministers in the revolutionary government, Miriam's daughter Rita (born while Miriam was in pre med) is now 25 years old and not a world walker because her father was a Pakistani med student and therefore she has only the recessive gene from her mother.
The new characters are interesting and quite different from what might be expected. Rita's adoptive grandf
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While technically a new series in the Merchant Princes series, this book manages to touch upon a lot of the loose threads from the previous series, and puts them to good use. That being said, this book stands alone pretty well, borrowing the Laundry Files' propensity for spooks and bureaucracy and putting it to different use. Miriam's daughter is the first option for the US to infiltrate another time line that seems dangerous. The book focuses mainly on Rita's training, embellishing it with glim ...more
Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
I don't know how Charles Stross manages to do it but he never lets me down. Every book of his that I've read is full of originality and lip-smacking verve. This particular novel deals with alternate universes or, more precisely, Earths which are potentially at war with each other. It doesn't help that both "antagonists" in the two key parallel Earths have nuclear capability and the skills to cross into their neighbours.
I enjoyed it, could hardly put it down. And there's a series! Oh goody!!
Interesting premise of parallel timelines. I guess this is a new continuation of an older series by Stross in the same general multiverse and some carryover characters. Not sure the old series would be totally to my liking, as it's apparently focused on medieval aristocratic society, where this one is focused on the growing pains of a new democracy. Plus, there's lots of really excellent, deeply thought out alternate world building, plus an oblique reference to the other famous 'alternate histor ...more
Lauren Stoolfire
Apr 02, 2017 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I listened to the first twenty minutes of the audiobook, and I'm pretty sure that this will be easier for me to follow while reading in print. I may also want to read The Merchant Princes series first as this expands upon that series... Otherwise, I think that this could be great.
Belinda Lewis
Some cool bits, but the weird pacing through me off multiple times.

Not interesting enough for me to want to pursue the rest of the series.
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This new addition to the Merchant Prince series is very welcome. It combines the satirical edge of the Laundry series with a less steam-punky story line than the earlier books in the series. I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy,
An alright read, though I won't be spending time on the rest of the series. For me there was too much time between moments of "cool!"
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a big fan of the Merchant Princes series, I was really looking forward to this first book in a new trilogy that continues the story, in a near-future alternate history. I wasn't disappointed. I loved learning more about how Miriam Beckstein and the other world walkers have been faring since the grand finale of the previous book, and the newly introduced main character, Rita, as well as her East-German grandpa are really likeable characters.

I don't know if I would have been able to enjoy this
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very professional and realistic military and government structure. Good detail and very cool.
I like the fact that there is an industrial revolution going on, speeded up and aiming to bypass the worst parts of our civilization
Jan 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Merchant Princes series
Good continuation of the Merchant Princes series that I read and loved a few years back. Though if you haven't read the Merchant Princes series, don't let that stop you from reading Empire Games; the author gives the backstory that clues in a new reader without resorting to infodumps. Well written and suspenseful; I enjoyed catching up with Miriam and meeting the new characters in the new installment. This is the first book in a new series, so there are some loose ends left to be tied up in the ...more
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SciFiBN: April 2019: Empire Games by Charles Stross 1 3 Oct 12, 2018 10:35AM  

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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)
  • Dark State (Empire Games #2, Merchant Princes Universe #8)
  • Invisible Sun
“Sociopath" was one of the most useful concepts that Miriam's Memetic Engineering Task Force had imported from the United States: Erasmus's Propaganda Ministry had been working overtime to raise awareness of it as an Anti-Democratic Problem: "People who think People are Things.” 1 likes
“Technologies are not neutral: they come with attached agendas, with associated ways of thinking. Industrial revolutions are inherently political revolutions.” 1 likes
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