Empire Games

by Henry on January 16, 2017

Just finished an advance copy of Charles Stross’s Empire Games, which is coming out tomorrow – recommended (NB – no spoilers below, except for the most abject social science geeks). I haven’t gotten as much out of his last couple of Laundry Books as the earlier ones (I prefer the horror-to-jokeiness balance to be weighted a little more in favor of horror) but I liked this sequel to his earlier Merchant Princes books quite a bit.

Specifically, it returns to the economic-development-theory fan-service that Paul Krugman liked so much in the earlier books, and ramps it up. It’s certainly cheeky to have an organization called the Ministry of Intertemporal Technological Intelligence with the goal of furthering domestic development through grabbing great ideas from elsewhere (in this case parallel universes) and looking to use them to build up domestic production capacity without allowing dangerous foreign dependencies to develop. I suspect that the nice clockwork theory that this MITI is working on is going to start popping escapements all over the place in the sequels. See also: cross-dimensional deterrence theory. I’m not going to say any more, so as to avoid spoiling actual plot developments, but if you liked the earlier books, you’ll almost certainly like this one, and if you’re looking for social-science literate entertainment, you should read it too, but likely you should read the prequels first to avoid hopeless confusion.



Zamfir 01.16.17 at 4:07 pm

Hmm, would this still be worthwhile for someone who likes Stross books in general, but not the earlier Merchant prince books?


Stephen 01.16.17 at 6:07 pm

Just what I was about to ask. I read the first couple of the MP series and found them basically to be little more than vehicles for the concepts, with almost nothing going on in the narrative, characterisation or dialog departments.


Henry 01.16.17 at 6:49 pm

I would say that like/dislike the previous Merchant Princes books is a pretty good gauge for like/dislike this one. It’s also a kissing cousin of Paul McAuley’s Cowboy Angels in theme and concerns, though the writing is very different.


Anderson 01.17.17 at 11:36 am

Yah, what Stephen said. I was hoping for a clever re-imagine of the Amber novels, and instead got a sketchy mess (with some gratuitous Bush-era wish-fulfillment thrown in … maybe Trump gets nuked in the sequel).


Soru 01.17.17 at 10:32 pm

Nah, it’s the Laundry Files that have a deniable UK operative investigate the ties between a US president and a higher Power.


Gareth Wilson 01.18.17 at 7:02 am

When the Merchant Princes books started they handled the Bush administration quite well. They really were the kind of people who’d wait for a Supreme Court ruling on whether a military attack was legal, but still put a bomb in a cell phone just to show who’s boss. But it all turned silly towards the end. For example, explaining a American nuclear attack as a frantic cover-up for an evil conspiracy is gratuitous, when it’s in retaliation for a nuclear attack on America.

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