I just finished reading the three volumes of The Merchant Princes Omnibus by Charlie Stross: The Bloodline Feud, The Traders’ War, and The Revolution Trade. They’re huge. They’re fun. There are more plotlines left dangling than at the Season-3½ point in Lost. They’re good enough to have robbed me of considerable sleep.

I started reading the series a decade or so ago as originally published, got bored, and left it behind. The story of how six blah books became three much better ones is long, and I’d think really interesting to anyone who cares about how novels are written and sold; SciFi/Fantasy stories in particular. The place to start is at Charlie’s own Crib Sheet: The Merchant Princes. Follow some of the links too.

Anyhow: Stross has serious fun with atomic weapons, and with the loathing any decent person has to feel for the leading figures of the Cheney administration; he gets to ignite more than one of the former and kill more than one of the latter, with enjoyably-gruesome attention to detail. Oh, and the books also feature love and macroeconomics.

Everything here passes the Bechdel Test, of course.

I still think that Stross’ finest pure-pleasure effort might be Iron Sunrise, but these books are right up there. While Stross keeps saying he’s not gonna write another Singularity book, this is screaming for sequelæ, and if you check the comments, it turns out they’re on the way.

Fine stuff, but a warning: These will eat up days of your time.


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From: Janne (Mar 26 2014, at 00:10)

Just so you know, he's been working on the sequels to these three for a year now, with tentative publication date around 2015 for the first volume: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2013/01/press-release.html

Which is good news to me; I found Stross through his Laundry novels, but the reedited Merchant Prince trilogy is excellent, and I can't recommend them warmly enough.


From: Gavin B. (Mar 26 2014, at 00:38)

I've always loved Asimov's Foundation Trilogy - where the Merchant Princes were essential for the Seldon Plan.

Listen here (great radio drama):


Part.3 The Merchant Princes



From: Leo (Mar 26 2014, at 03:26)

Hey Tim,

you'll be glad to hear that Charlie is working on the next 3 books in the series right now. See http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2014/02/miscellanea.html for a bit more detail.


From: Simon Proctor (Mar 26 2014, at 06:24)

I just read the series for the first time, partly because Mr Stross mentioned he was working on the sequels now. Set in the next generation.



From: Bud Gibson (Mar 26 2014, at 09:17)

I agree with your assessment of iron sunrise. He is often interesting but uneven.


From: Guy Middleton (Mar 28 2014, at 07:38)

I bought all six of these books as they were published, intending to read them all at once after the final volume was out. I never did get around to reading them.

Now it appears they will gather dust on my shelves forever, and I will read the new version instead.


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