Dark State (Empire Games #2)Dark State by Charles Stross

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dark State is the middle book in a trilogy, and leaves us on a multi-threaded set of cliffhangers waiting for the final instalment in January 2019.

Dark State

The story continues from where Empire Games left off, with nary a beat missed. Paranoia is set to eleventy one and everyone is watching everybody else. We have four major threads to follow.

  1. Rita and her official mission with the US Dept of Homeland Security.
  2. Rita’s girlfriend and grandfather and the Wolf Orchestra trying to save Rita from DHS.
  3. Major Hulius Hjorth who is engineering Elizabeth Hanover’s defection from the old monarchy the Commonwealth.
  4. The remnants of the Clan in the Commonwealth and their plans for the imminent succession crisis when the First Citizen dies.

Through all of these there are links and cross threads. There are unexpected complications and twists. This is good, because it makes this middle taught. Each of the plots is developed very well, and brought almost to boiling point.

Alternate Histories

The background to the books, this is the second trilogy in the same multiverse, has some of the sketching filled in with detail. We see more of the strange dome in timeline 4, it has its own sub-plot. There’s also more in consequences and culture shock on moving people between timelines.

There’s a really interesting annex after the story that explains the point of divergence between timeline 2 and timeline 3. This gives a potted history of timeline 3 to explain how, and why, democracy never replaced monarchies until the events between the two trilogies. Timeline 2 isn’t quite ours, it diverged around 2001/2.

Overall this is an excellent middle part, it almost stands on its own, but you really ought to read Empire Games first, and you’ll definitely want to read part three afterwards.

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