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Black Chamber

(Tales from the Black Chamber #1)

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  583 ratings  ·  132 reviews
The first novel in a brand-new alternate history series where Teddy Roosevelt is president for a second time right before WWI breaks out, and on his side is the Black Chamber, a secret spy network watching America's back.

1916. The Great War rages overseas, and the whole of Europe, Africa, and western Asia is falling to the Central Powers. To win a war that must be won, Ted
Paperback, 388 pages
Published July 3rd 2018 by Ace
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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I'm a big fan of alternate histories, particularly when they are done well, and Stirling creates an alternate universe in rather precise detail. It's World War I and a nearly victorious Germany is dominating continental Europe. Back in North America, Teddy Roosevelt has just been elected president again, tough, charming, knowledgeable. And, backed by a secret spy network known as the Black Chamber. Move over James Bond, the premier agent in this network is the stunningly beautiful Cuban-Irish Am ...more
Tim The Enchanter
Posted to the Literary Lawyer

A Great Example of Indulgent Writing - 2 Stars

My first experience with S.M. Stirling may very well be my last. If you are looking for a novel in which you get to experience the author’s fantasies and have the privilege of the author explaining to your the MANY topics he researched to write the book, this might be the book for you.


Ignore the canned synopses you will find scattered across the internet. Despite it’s claims, this is not what I would define
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it
I won this book in a goodreads drawing.

An alternative history set in a world where Theodore Roosevelt won the election of 1912. The conditions to bring on World war One are in motion, and T.R. has inaugurated a proto-CIA to stop such shenanigans.

The heroine of the story, Luz O'Malley Arostegui, is a personal friend to TR, and the only female member of the spy group, The Black Chamber. She goes on assignment, and from there, you basically get a Modesty Blaize novel, only without Willy.

Pretty dece
Peter Tillman
First of a new series set in an alternate WW1, where Teddy Roosevelt won re-election in 1912, along with a more-horrible Great War. This book is about an amazingly-accomplished young female secret agent of US military intelligence, her adventures in Europe, and her discovery of a monstrous plan by the Germans: (view spoiler)

I never quite believed in the protagonist, although her
There’s common advice, from librarians and others, that if you reach page 50 in a book and don’t love it, you should set it aside and move on. I stuck with this book for more than three times that amount, and I don’t love it. I think I could have loved it, but as it is, I don’t.

The author can, from a technical view – spelling, punctuation, syntax, etc. - write. However, I think he’s out of his comfort zone in this book. There’s a story buried in the pages, somewhere, but it takes so much effort
Picky Virgo
Jul 24, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, espionage
Stirling delivers a well-written tale (as usual), but that’s all I can say about it. His painstaking descriptions of minutae in both apparel and weaponry seemed to drag interminably. I found myself skipping entire pages, just to get to the end of an interlude whose outcome wasn’t in question. If there’s another volume in this saga, please count me out.
It's an interesting premise, but I kept expecting the main character to think a little more deeply about the events in the story and the world around her. (The idea of a US remade by Teddy Roosevelt and other progressives of his time is fascinating, but the fact that the story never really interrogates the less attractive aspects of it, like eugenics and Prohibition, left my historian self deeply disturbed.) At times the pace dragged, too. Other readers may have a different experience with this ...more
Allen Adams
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it

My affection for the alternate history subgenre of speculative fiction is no secret. I’ve always been enamored of the answers to “what if?” questions that these sorts of stories can provide. The idea that one small difference can cause ripples that lead to larger and larger divergences – it makes for fascinating fiction.

S.M. Stirling is one of the foremost practitioners of alternate history; his latest is “Black Chamber,” the first in a series about a Worl
The Lit Bitch
When this book came across my desk for review—I was stoked. I don’t read a ton of alternative history, but this one sounded so so so good that I was eager to read it without question.

I sounded like alternative history mixed with some espionage and sci-fi so how could I pass? I couldn’t!

OK so now I remember why I don’t read alternative history. Having a masters in history makes alternative history hard. Like really hard to read. I kept getting confused—-why was this happening? No that’s not what
Sep 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: x2018-19-season
A lot of build up with little payoff. The break-point of Teddy Roosevelt redux is a good one, but using it as a jumping off point to jump-start a leftist paradise is a step to far for believability, the hyper-sexualized lead is trying way to hard to be Jayne Bond, the female paramour is utterly, ridiculously, naive for a nominal spy, and the downwind changes in the European war are unexplained in light of the altered American history. Mix this with an abrupt conclusion that violates every conven ...more
Randal White
Jun 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
The first installment of a new series, Black Chamber is an alternative history novel of the period just prior to America's entry into World War 1.
In this timeline, Teddy Roosevelt is president, and has set America on his "Progressive" path. The book is the story of a secret agent, Luz, who is sent undercover to discover what Germany is planning. She discovers a plan for Germany to employ a truly deadly secret weapon against the United States.
I really enjoy some of Stirling's books. The "Island
All Things Urban Fantasy
Review courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy

While I was happy to read an alternative history thriller as a change of pace, reading BLACK CHAMBER felt like a chore to work through with it's extensive detail about almost everything which slowed the plot way down or just confused me at times. I love a good world building effort and this book excels at that but getting into the minutia of every little detail became over whelming at points and parts that I wanted more explanation on were skimmed over
Erik Kendall
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
 “I received free books from Penguin Random House in exchange for this review.” I have always liked alternate history books and this is now one of my favorites!
cool breeze
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Billed as an alternate history, this is unintentionally as much a time travel novel. The protagonist, Irish-Cuban Luz O'Malley Arostegui, is a over-the-top Mary Sue 2018 heroine miraculously transplanted a century back in time to an alt-history 1916. She is an atheist, bisexual, multicultural, multilingual, and a polymath. At 25, her expertise includes martial arts, rock climbing, acrobatics, period weaponry, the Kama Sutra and the nuances of Nietzsche's philosophy in the original German dialect ...more
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Find more in Chill and read

“Black Chamber” is the first installment in an alternative history series positioned right before America’s entry in the Great War. I really enjoyed it and I am looking forward to the next in line!

Theodore Roosevelt has been elected president in 1912 and he is still at the White House in 1916. He has brought a lot of progress in the States ever since and has created a Secret service called Black Chamber. His secret service agents have intelligence of a great weapon bei
Bill Powers
Okay, I did something I rarely do. I put this book down. I plowed through to about 35% and had enough.
I came across a review on Black Chamber by S. M. Stirling in the Wall Street Journal. It had some of my favorite interest – alternative history and Theodore Roosevelt. The premise is that during the 1912 US presidential election, President Taft dies, Teddy wins the Republican nomination and becomes President of the United States – again. Teddy is then POTUS during World War I. Excellent premise,
John Purvis
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Black Chamber" eBook was published in 2018 and was written by S. M. Stirling ( Mr. Stirling has published more than 50 novels. 

I received an ARC of this novel through in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence and some Mature Situations. The story is set during the World War I years, though in an alternate timeline. In this world, President Taft dies in office and Teddy Roosevelt
Noreen Fish
Jul 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a great spy story wrapped up in a fascinating alternate history. The preface sets the scene. In 1912, Teddy Roosevelt is contending against William Taft for the soul of the Republican party Progressives versus Conservatives, respectively, when a telegram arrives. Taft has died of a heart attack, leaving TR a clear path to another term as president.

A few years later, the First World War is raging in Europe. TR is on the verge of joining Britain and France to fight the Kaiser. A field
Pretty good Stirling novel: fast-paced, with large amounts of skullduggery, violence and technical detail. Set in 1916, we see a USA under a united Progressive Republican Party led by Teddy Roosevelt (In this history, Taft dies in 1912, giving Roosevelt the Republican nomination, and shortly thereafter, the White House), standing at the brink of entering the Great War. This isn't my period, and while the advances do seem in line with Roosevelt's goals and beliefs, they seem to have progressed (b ...more
Dec 05, 2018 added it
This is a great book! Smart, sarcastic female lead character. Teddy Roosevelt has a great description. I am waiting for vol 2.
Roland Taub
Nov 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A super-exciting plot and ....

... really well told. I was afraid the extensive use of foreign languages would be a hindrance to the flow of the story, but Stirling does a good job mixing in translations and explanations.

The use of the German "super-weapon" which calls up the USA's use of the A bomb against Japan to end WW2 was skillfully crafted. However, I couldn't help but think how different one's feelings are when your country is on the "using" and not on the "receiving" side.
Michael V. Smith
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
New book and a different direction

from Mr. Stirling. Black Chamber is a fast paced AH spy novel. Quite different from the Change series that has just concluded. Great character development, romance, concept and action. All ingredients we have come to expect from one of my favorite authors. You will love it.
The Nerd Book Review
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
First of all I have been a huge fan of Stirling's Change series alternative history novels for a decade and before the podcast came out they were on my list of books I pre-ordered as soon as they were available. If you want a short taste of his works read the Nantucket series that is tied to the Change series. I even got Katie to read them haha.
With that being said I really wanted to love this book as well and the writing is top notch as it should be with a veteran author but I just didn't care
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received free books from Penguin Random House in exchange for this review

This is not normally the kind of book I'd pick up. I'm really into history, and I enjoy reading historical novels, but somehow I've never really gotten into alternative history books (unless alternate history is part of a time travel sci fi book or something). I think I read one Harry Turtledove book I didn't like and it sort of turned me off the whole genre. But after this one I may have to revise my opinion.

I picked thi
Kylah Peterman
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, giveaways
Excellent book! S.M. Stirling creates detailed characters and a story that comes alive in your mind. Plenty of action and a lovely ending.
Arlene Kellas
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This isn’t a book that I would normally pick up. I got an advanced copy at Emerald City Comic Con and thought I’d give it a try. I generally like altered history stories anyway.

My brother and dad were the history lovers in the family and luckily I learned a bit. I could see where someone that doesn’t know the basic history timeline could easily get sucked into this story as real.

Basically President Taft dies earlier than he should and a very progressive party lead by Teddy Roosevelt takes cont
Sarai Henderson
A thrilling story that flips history on its head. Stirling has a way of painting a beautiful world. Right up there with some of my favorite world builders like Robert Jordan and Sarah J. Maas. The world is so wonderful that it flows us through the story like a boat on a river. Had a great time reading this book.

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, steampunk
I love S.M. Stirling. I've enjoyed pretty much everything of his I've ever read. And some of those have been alternate history novels. So I went into it expecting to like it. And then it was a kick-ass female protagonist, and all the untranslated asides were in Spanish and German, so it was aimed squarely at me.

I was on an airplane and my actual history is weak, but I'm pretty sure the break happened when Taft died while running for president (during the election where Teddy Roosevelt split the
Robbie Truex
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received free books from Penguin Random House in exchange for this review.
Vincent Archer
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: alt-history
Stirling does alt-hist better than the ones better known for the genre...

This is a different 20th century. It posits the untimely death of Pres. Taft, and the ascenscion of Teddy Roosevelt, propelling a progressive Republican party at the head of the USA. Add a first world war that is still ongoing in 1920, with the attendant technological arm race... and spies. And you have a James Bond novel, if James Bond was a bisexual Modern cubano-irish woman, with Nikola Tesla as Q. Add suitable daring fe
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Stephen Michael Stirling is a French-born Canadian-American science fiction and fantasy author. Stirling is probably best known for his Draka series of alternate history novels and the more recent time travel/alternate history Nantucket series and Emberverse series.

(personal website: source)

I’m a writer by trade, born in France but Canadian by origin and American by naturalizat

Other books in the series

Tales from the Black Chamber (3 books)
  • Theater of Spies (Tales from the Black Chamber #2)
  • Shadows of Annihilation (Tales from the Black Chamber #3)

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