Empire Games by Charle Stross

Review published on June 1, 2017.

Seventeen years ago, the Monarch of the New British Empire was overthrown. Since then, power has steadily transferred to the North American Commonwealth. They are on course to defeat the French and return democracy once again. However, the commissioner of the shadowy Ministry of Intertemporal Research and Intelligence tasked with monitoring the movement of people through the paratime links between the parallel worlds has been warning that the Americans are coming. No one believed Miriam Burgeson, but as the leader’s health fails, the first American drones appear in the skies.

In another timeline and a different America, Rita has been identified as world-walker, an individual who can switch between the parallel worlds with ease. She is a feisty individual, not completely sure why a shadowy agency wants her but presented with precisely no choice in the matter. First, she must be trained, undergo surgery and be indoctrinated, but the time is cut shorter as the pressure grows on the US to find out what is happening in the world alongside theirs. The perils of first contact between the worlds is heightened as they both have nuclear capability and no one knows if this battle will go white hot once again.

This is a fast-paced mash-up of the spy and military genres set in a near future sci-fi world, or should that be worlds. There is plenty of drama in the plot, with the odd twist that enhances the storyline no end. Like all good sci-fi books, it manages to mess with your head whilst sounding eminently plausible; the various societies that Stross has created do take a while to get your head around though. It leaves many questions unanswered, making the ending a little bit scrappy, but as it is the beginning of a series, I don’t mind that so much. Very much looking forward to the next one.

Paul Cheney 4/3

Empire Games by Charle Stross
Tor 9781447245391 pbk Jan 2017

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