Book Review: ‘Empire Games’ Is A Convoluted Mess

Charles Stross builds a new series with ‘Empire Games,’ expanding on the world he created in the ‘Family Trade’ series, a new generation of paratime travelers walk between parallel universes.

This is my first read of the Charles Stross series, the ‘Family Trade.’ There have been three other novels before this one and in a manner of speaking, it has left me uneasy in the understanding of the concepts introduced here and the characters that play out the story. The science fiction referred to here are the different timelines put forward on a regular basis and the fact that there are different earths in those timelines, living out disparate futures. Then to encompass the whole, you have world-walkers, people who have the ability to teleport between parallel universes and the different seats of power who want to rule all. Jumping between times and earths, gradually becomes confusing and to put it mildly, convoluted.

This particular story revolves around Rita Douglas, who is unaware that she has the capacity to worldwalk, adopted at birth and raised by Franz and Emily Douglas, but it turns out that Kurt Douglas, Rita’s grandfather, is the mysterious kingpin in this whole story. Rita is drawn into the world of spies and they quickly realize she has this special ability and wants her to spy on another world. Rita, as a character, is without any element of humanity, with the exception of her closeness to her grandfather. I had absolutely no empathy for her, as the leading character so to speak, she did nothing for me at all.

There were plenty of people in the story with very few of them standing out at all. When Rita finally meets her real mother, the scenario is stilted and disappointing. Everything was in place to create a great visual impact but it didn’t transpire. The story is drowned in a dreadful plethora of political ideas that drowned the whole concept for me. Of course, everything is left hanging in the air for the next book. I don’t know how many times you can hash and rehash the idea of people coming together to avoid a nuclear war that will save all of mankind. The book has the basis for a good sci-fi yarn but at the end of the day, the different worlds, timelines, and political blunderings, caused the story to crumble under its own words.

Now available in bookstores

Ann McDonald

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