Seth's Reviews > The Family Trade

The Family Trade by Charles Stross
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did not like it
bookshelves: 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 pretense to her having goals; just let her drift along being scared and planning to do something--with no idea what--"when the time comes"
3. Remove all subtlety from the politics
4. Spend 2/3 of the book doing absolutely nothing
5. Throw in some unnecessary and unbelievable sex to make the protagonist seem desperate and easy
6. End with nothing accomplished. Actually have a denouement without a climax

Oh, and throw in three chapters scattered throughout the book that have nothing to do with anything on-stage so far, just to shout "Hey, look! I have stuff going on you don't know about! Keep reading the series!"

On the plus side,
A. Take time out after every interesting scene that could move the plot to reflect on the socioeconomic forces that come into play or the implications and limits of the magical technology and how it correlates to the industrialization of third-world countries.

In short, replace all story with author intrusion.

Now, I like Stross' discourses on how Arab princes could import luxuries and live in opulence but didn't have the transport or infrastructure to import materials to industrialize. I like his discussion of what you could do to make money or secure power with the world-walking ability in the book (most effective: drug smuggling). I'd read a book that abandoned all pretense to plot and alternated essays and short stories on those themes. But I do kind of want a story in my story.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
November 1, 2007 – Finished Reading
November 6, 2007 – Shelved
October 7, 2008 – Shelved as: fantasy
December 8, 2009 – Shelved as: sf-f-h

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Janet (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:07PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Janet Thank you for the detailed review-- I gave up on the book halfway through, but was wondering if it would ever get around to something interesting happening. Good to know I didn't miss anything.


message 2: by Seth (new) - rated it 1 star

Seth Check out Halting State if you want a much more enjoyable Stross. Still not perfect, but worth the read.

I will need to keep trying his books, though. Three friends I highly respect independently tell me how great they think he is.


Mira Yep. I also "loved" what a snot she was to her assistant (who actually did everything).


Itai Greif Thanks for the review. That is exactly how I felt about the book.


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