Saturday, 10 August 2013

Book Review: 'The Family Trade' by Charles Stross

'The Family Trade' is the first part of a six part series written by Stross nearly ten years ago. They have been republished in 3 volumes this year, with each volume containing two books. This is the first Stross I have read even though I know it is not his most popular work. But the concept attracted me.

Miriam Beckstein, a technology journalist, stumbles into intrigue when she is fired from her job and discovers that she can travel to a mirror universe where she seems to have heritage. As a baby she was found alongside a murdered woman who was never identified. Seems a bit cliche and contrived right?

Correct. But it is a wonderful ride. Sure you can see some plot points coming from 100 pages away, and the main character seems a little too well-equipped for the situation she finds herself in. I really didn't care too much about this because it was clever and fun.

I think an analogy to the 'Harry Potter' books is apt. The 'Potter' books did not offer any new insights into the fantasy genre. Everything in those books had been done before. But they told a fun story, with lots of detail, and explored plenty of ideas. This book was the same idea. Definitely not of the same quality of the 'Potter' books, but a great read anyway.

The storyline seems like it could easily have been a 90s/2000s US TV show that had a cult following but only lasted one season. Something pitched as 'Sliders meets The Godfather'. It has an air of cheesiness to it, but all the ideas and adventure make it so much fun.

I have been careful not to spoil too much of the storyline, and I'm reluctant to say any more. The details that I revealed above happen in the first 30 pages and are probably less that what you'll get reading the blurb on the cover or above on the goodreads page. It is one of those books where you need to stay away from spoilers as you do read it to find out what is happening and what can happen next. So my recommendation is steer clear of blurbs on this one. I'm continuing on with the series and I'll not be reading any blurbs or reviews just in case.

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