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]
Cult of the Dead Cow: the untold story of the hacktivist group that presaged everything great and terrible about the internet
Back in 1984, a lonely, weird kid calling himself Grandmaster Ratte' formed a hacker group in Lubbock, Texas. called the Cult of the Dead Cow, a name inspired by a nearby slaughterhouse. In the decades to come, cDc would become one of the dominant forces on the BBS scene and then the internet -- endlessly […]
I was already a Terry Pratchett fan and a Neil Gaiman fan in 1990, when their comedic novel Good Omens showed up in the bookstore I worked at, and I dibsed it, took it home over the weekend, read it in huge gulps, and wrote an enthusiastic review on a 3x5 card that I tacked […]
The tree thought to have inspired Theodor Seuss Geisel’s 1971 book The Lorax has fallen down. The Monterey Cypress tree stood for 80 to 100 years at Ellen Browning Scripps Park in La Jolla, California, Geisel’s home for almost 50 years. From CNN: Tim Graham (of the San Diego Parks and Recreation Department) said there […]
When it comes to large computer systems, not one of them is fully secure. Even with constant updates to the platforms that keep vital networks humming, there’s always a back door. And companies are willing to pay handsomely to effective bouncers that can keep an eye on them. Call them ethical hackers or white hat […]
So you’ve visited the Kennedy Space Center every year. You’ve watched “The Right Stuff” for the 95th time. There must be something to do while you’re waiting to join Space Force for the next manned mission to Mars or the moon. Here’s a combo that should raise a salute from any fan of space or […]
Looking for a new tablet? If you haven’t upgraded in a while, it might be time to check out the latest iPad Pro for two very good reasons. First, the 2018 model is a real workhorse. The 12X Bionic chip processor means it can handle any task you set out for it, and still have […]