Charles Stross's "Dark State": transdimensional, nuclear-tipped mutually assured destruction by way of a first-rate spy novel
Dark State is the sequel to Empire Games, a reboot/latter phase of Charles Stross's longrunning, excellent economic science fiction/high fantasy Merchant Princes series.
With last year's Empire Games, Stross restarted the series, taking it to a new phase that doesn't require the reader to be familiar with the first seven volumes (though they are fantastic reads and thoroughly recommended in their own right).
Like the first seven books, the Empire Games books are works of tremendously fun and thought-provoking political/economic speculation, in which a small clan of people with the hereditary means to traverse the barriers between parallel universes ("worldwalking") create a variety of trade arrangements across timelines with different levels of technological sophistication and paranoid surveillance states.
But Empire Games takes it to a new level; the first series was something like a police procedural or crime novel, about the potential for worldwalking drug cartels. This new series is about a new cold war, in which the nuclear tipped-arsenals of a paranoid, maddened version of the USA are seeking a lock through the multiverse for the worldwalkers, who have taken up residence in an alternate dieselpunk Earth that they are desperately attempting to bring through an accelerated information revolution so they can attain nuclear deterrence before the US finds them.
Stross's police-state America is darkly hilarious, incredibly capable and also quite mad, a rogues' gallery of Dominionists and Scientologists whose religious doctrines are the only thing standing between the awesome might of the state and total dominance over its citizenry. Meanwhile, his revolutionary parallel timeline, gripped by a succession crisis and internal rivalries, is a beautifully realized parallel society whose dizzying rate of change is something like post-Deng China, but driven by a WWII-style military-industrial pulling-together for mutual defense against an all-powerful foe.
Meanwhile, the actual spy novel that animates all this poleconomic speculation is first-rate: sporting a rogue cell of abandoned deep-cover Stasi families, worldwalking missions to spirit high-level defectors across multiple timelines, and a ticking-bomb McGuffin in the form of a parallel universe in which a vastly technologically advanced civilization seems to have deliberately turned the Earth into a tame black hole the size of a walnut...
Like Empire Games, Stross ends this book on a precipitious cliff hanger, with a note to expect another volume next January.
Dark State: A Novel of the Merchant Princes Multiverse [Charles Stross/Tor]
From her groundbreaking first album Switched-On Bach (1968) to the unforgettable soundtracks for A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1980), and Tron (1982), Wendy Carlos is a living legend of electronic music. In March, Oxford University Press will publish Wendy Carlos: A Biography, written by musicologist Amanda Sewel, musical director of Interlochen Public Radio. From […]
Our cities’ sewers are some of the most incredible structures in the built environment. In a new book, “An Underground Guide to Sewers: or: Down, Through and Out in Paris, London, New York, &c.” historian Stephen Halliday explores the systems (and people) that deal with our shit so we don’t have to. From the book […]
Newton's Principia Mathematica, George Washington's journal: archivist stole $8m worth of rare books from Pittsburgh's Carnegie Library
Gregory Priore -- former archivist for Pittsburgh's Carnegie Library -- has pleaded guilty of stealing $8m worth of rare texts from the collection over a 25 year period, fencing them through John Schulman's Caliban Book Shop (Schulman has also pleaded guilty, and admitted to forgery as well).
Few things in life are more universally dreaded than going to the gym, which is unfortunate since a new year usually means making new resolutions to get in shape. Thankfully, this BodyBoss 2.0: Portable Home Gym has everything you need to burn fat and build muscle in the comfort of your own home. With just […]
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to travel more, you owe it to yourself to learn the language of the place you’re visiting. If you’re not sure where to start, give these resources a look. From mobile apps to online courses, these products can get you conversant in a new language before you […]
Anyone who loves biking, skiing, or snowboarding in the great outdoors knows just how difficult it can be to safely transport your gear—especially during extended trips. These three accessories make it easier than ever to securely attach your gear to your car. So if you’re planning to embark on a outdoor adventure soon, you’d be […]