oracne - Victoria Janssen (oracne) wrote,
oracne - Victoria Janssen


I just read Charlie Stross' The Family Trade, recently out in mass market paperback, and was totally engrossed in it all weekend. The opening sentence is an homage to Neuromancer and the style and plot are, he makes no bones about it, inspired directly by Zelazny's Amber series. That might be one reason I enjoyed the book so much; for many years, when asked who my favorite writer was, I would say "Zelazny" without hesitation (though Amber wasn't my favorite of his works, the first Amber books were up there in the top ten). Also, I think nostalgia played a part; the whole feel of the book, an irreverent take on alternate-world fantasy, reminded me of when I was still discovering new sf/f authors by the bucketload simply by browsing the shelves of my local used bookstore.

A major difference between this book and the Amber series, aside from it being third-person rather than first-person, is that the protagonist is a woman, one of the things I generally found lacking in Zelazny. Miriam Beckstein went to medical school but then decided being a doctor wasn't for her (this is in the past, and I have a suspicion it might be more important later). She became a journalist for a business journal, and the book begins just as she loses her job thanks to investigating the wrong thing, wrong in that it will inconvenience people who happen to be involved with her publication. After being fired, Miriam goes to visit her adoptive mother, Iris, who hands over a box of materials that had belonged to Miriam's birth mother. In the box is a strange locket. With a strange pattern inside (another Amber homage!) which can transport her to another world.

And what a wacky world it is. At first, it looks like empty forest, except for the knights in armor firing automatic weapons; then she finds a squalid medieval-style village; then, finally, she's abducted from her bed and finds out that she's a longlost heir to a kingdom, of sorts. A business kingdom of worldwalkers. Whose business is...well, she references Goodfellas and The Godfather, except with a Renaissance merchant princes kind of feel. Miriam isn't the sort to meekly do as her newfound family tells her--if she can figure out what that is exactly--so she spends a lot of the book learning about her new world, and setting things up so she will have a temporary escape if she needs it, and deciding what to do in the future. And there we're left at the end. She's killed someone, and killers are after her, and now she has to hide, and she's not sure whom she can trust. And I can't wait for the next book in the series.

Tags: books, sf/f

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