Review of THE REVOLUTION BUSINESS by Charles Stross (see his website)
VOLUME FIVE OF THE MERCHANT PRINCES
Tom Doherty, Tor, April 2009
For years, an uneasy alliance of conservatives and progressives has ruled a medieval-style alternate dimension of what is the United States in our dimension. A few of these noblemen and women can walk between dimensions and they've used this ability to create a narcotics smuggling operation. No borders can keep them out. But the alliance breaks down when the progressives decide to create an heir and the older brother decides he doesn't want to be left out. Meanwhile, in a universe much like our own, the Americans discover that some of their nukes are missing...and that they've been stolen by the dimension walkers.
It was always thought that only two dimensions existed but a long-exiled clan of dimension-walkers has discovered a third, and where there are three, there are likely to be many. In this third dimension, revolution has broken out and quasi-communists battle with royalists/nazis for control of the streets. Meanwhile, between America and Niejwein, Miriam, proposed mother of the heir, struggles to survive and to look for a way to save her friends from the massive retaliation coming from America.
Author Charles Stross does an interesting job creating a universe/multiverse where there are essentially no sides to root for. Between war-mongering Americans (led by a Vice President who got rich by participating in the Niejwein drug business and obviously based on former VP Cheney), New Britain revolutionaries who seem intent on creating the type of disaster that was the Soviet Union (or their nazi enemies), and drug-smuggling Niejweiners, there isn't a lot to choose from. Still, Stross makes his characters interesting. It's hard not to sympathize with Miriam as she tries to work out a solution to an apparently unsolvable problem.
THE REVOLUTION BUSINESS starts in the middle and ends in the middle--always a danger when it comes to series. It's hard to know what's going on or to figure out who's doing what to whom. I would have liked to see more thematic (or plot) connection between the New Britain revolution and what was going on in the rest of the story. As it was, these elements seemed disconnected and irrelevant to the main plot.
Although THE REVOLUTION BUSINESS was flawed, it kept my interest and the references to recent US history were amusing.
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