You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Family Trade

In The Family Trade, Charles Stross has created an alternate reality story where a similar Earth with a different history exists alongside our own, and only members of a certain family can travel between worlds. The alternate Earth has an older feudal civilization in the same place as modern day Boston and New York.

Miriam Beckstein is a journalist who loses her job after she and her assistant Paulette uncover a money laundering operation involving their employer. After her adoptive mother gives her a package of belongings from her birth mother, she accidentally shifts to another world while looking at a design on a locket. Despite the headache, she manages to return to the regular world.

After a brief trip to the other side for reconnaissance, Miriam is kidnapped and taken to the other side. There she learns that she is the long lost heiress to a fortune and a title in the family. The family profits by moving other-side trade goods through the real world and moving drugs safely through the other side. She meets her uncle Duke Angbard and her cousin Roland, and finds out that there are elements of the family who would not be happy with her return, and others who would happily see her dead. She starts a sexual relationship with Roland and they begin to fall for each other.

Miriam decides to cooperate with her new family, but uses her new credit line to get cash, buy cell phones, and make contingency plans. She hires Paulette as her helper. She is required to travel to a different city to be presented to the king. While there, she encounters several attempts on her life and that of her companions. In the end, she escapes with one of her companions to the real world, and makes her way out of the clutches of her family.

The story is an interesting concept done fairly well. There are some good plot developments, and the concept seems well worked out. Miriam's new family is extensive and full of rivalries, but she realizes she has little choice but to join the game. Yet the narrative seemed a little less exciting than it could have been. Sometimes Miriam is just a little too smart and knows too many of the answers. Her family is intriguing, as are the maids-in-waiting and other associates on the other side.

The book is definitely the start of a story, and not a complete story in itself. The ending is not a true ending, and barely a cliffhanger. But it is an interesting start. I think the variables of different family members, switching between worlds, and dealing with jealous royalty has some good potential. B.


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