Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Trade of Queens

by Charles Sttross

Last of his Merchant Princes books, a 2010 work and not good enough for a shortlist. It's a decent work though, and a lot better than I was expecting. Regardless of diminished expectations it works fairly effectively, wrapping up plotlines on three worlds in an exciting manner. Elements of the main premise don't conclude so much as just stop and and the central character doesn't seem to react emotionally as much as would be effective, but it's a fairly well written, exciting and decently imaginative work. The setting works more than anything else, showing the intersection of different universes with a fast paced political thriller. The novel is at its best in exploring the messy incompleteness of revlutions, the way a righteous social turmoil doesn’t resolve all the foreign and domestic problems for a new regime. In an odd movement for the end of a series it’s some of the less complete elements that feel most satisfying, the open questions left as to what happens with the world, while the definitive deaths of several major villains is less satisfying.

One major demerit though is that, as with is previous Merchant Princes book and like Doctrow's Little Brother, Stross beats nuance over the head and makes his neocon villains over the top, mustache twirling evil. Here we have Cheney deliberately inciting a nuclear attack against the U.S to justify a massive retalitation, and it becomes too over the top evil, alienating itself from the possibility of serious political commentary. Although unlike Doctrow the regime isn't made drolling idiots as well, and are actually frighteningly dangerous. This makes a significant distinction, and it works pretty well to have a fantasy-like medieval setting fleeing the unstopable destructive dangerous force, which is the modern world with the neo-conservative trend writ large. All things considered I'm glad this series ended, and it did wind out a lot better than I'd feared.

Better than: The Revolution Business by Charles Stross
Worse than: Clans of the Alphane Moon by Philip K. Dick

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