Empire Games was released in North America yesterday, and will be released in the UK next week. Charles Stross explains a bit about the book:
So what’s it all about?
Back in 2009, when The Trade of Queens came out, I was so burned out with the Merchant Princes series that I basically set fire to the universe. Here’s a useful tip when writing epic SF sagas; if you ever need to keep the readers on their toes, and thin out the cast of millions so you can get a handle on the survivors again, you can totally forget going stabby at a wedding reception a la “Game of Thrones”; what you really need is a brisk thermonuclear holocaust.
And lo, I was so done with that setting that it took three whole years, a “director’s cut” re-release of the first six slim fantasy-branded books as three slightly slimmer (and heavily edited) big fat technothriller omnibus volumes, and a fit of insanity before I stopped saying “no” and grunted, “well, maybe …” when my editor, David Hartwell, nudged me again.
You can read Empire Games as a stand-alone, a new thing in its own right, but if you read the previous series, it builds on top of it: you’ll find it easier to work out what’s going on, and possibly get more out of it, if you read the earlier books.
Empire Games reintroduces some of the characters from the first Merchant Princes series, but it’s set 17 years later, in the 2020 of an unimaginably different sheath of parallel universes, and there are a bunch of new protagonists, too. (For quite some time, the working title was Merchant Princes: The Next Generation.) The horrible consequences of the ending of The Trade of Queens have played out at length, with echoes everywhere the world-walkers of the Clan have been.
In the United States, DHS has responsibility for securing the homeland from threats from every possible time line; domestic security is, shall we say, draconian. (And in the wake of the nuking of the White House, who’s to say they’re wrong?) Meanwhile, they’re prospecting for oil (and handy carbon capture repositories) in uninhabited time lines, and have stumbled across a certain valley with an ancient dome in a neighboring time line.
The world of the New British Empire has undergone even greater upheavals, though. A new expansionist revolutionary entity, the New American Commonwealth, has emerged from the wreckage of the ancien regime, and is engaged in a desperate nuclear-armed cold war stand-off with the rival French empire. And one Miriam is prominent in the Commonwealth government, running a ministry for intertemporal technological industrial espionage. Because unlike the Clan, the Commonwealth government wants an industrial revolution — and Miriam’s warning cry, “The Americans are coming”, does not go unheeded.