The Clan Corporate
by Charles Stross
Tor, 2006, ISBN 0-765-30930-0
A book review by Elisabeth Carey
Miriam Beckstein found her birth family, discovered her true heritage, and learned to walk between worlds in The Family Trade and The Hidden Family. Now the excitement really starts.
Miriam, known as Helge in the alternate world she and her mother come from, knows she can't escape her familyjumped-up nobility in Gruinmarkt, drug-runners in the USAbut neither does she want to spend the remainder of her life in a primitive and repressive feudal society, with child-bearing and child-rearing as her only career choice. Having successfully set up a technologically innovative (borrowing from advances made in the USA-timeline) company in yet a third world, New Britain, she hopes to convince her rediscovered family that their current methods are reaching the end of their usefulness, and they can make much better profits if only they'll listen to her ideas and follow her New Britain lead.
Meanwhile, back "home" in the USA, DEA agent Mike Fleming is drafted into a major security operation triggered by Family defector Matthias' information. And in New Britain, there's also a security crackdown, aimed at Miriam's politically radical contacts there (they believe in democracy and free speech), and there may be another conspiracy against the King, with much better resources and access.
Through all of this, there's also the uneasy truce with the other branch of the Clan, that Miriam rediscovered in her world-hopping journeys.
Miriam's at a disadvantage in attempting an internal revolution in the Clan, with not enough knowledge, not enough allies, only the beginnings of an understanding of the language, and an unwillingness to accept that she might need to really deal with the situation as it is and gain control of the levers of power available to her, rather than the ones that ought to be available to her. As she jumps between worlds and tries to gain leverage against her uncle the Duke, both her own precarious position and the Clan's start to spiral out of control.
It's a fast-paced, complex story, juggling intertangled conspiracies in three worlds, with everyone lacking critical information they need just to survive, never mind win. Be warned, it ends in a cliffhanger, with at least one more book needed to resolve the horrible mess Miriam, the Clan, Mike Fleming, and the New Britain conspirators have landed in, but it's an exciting ride, and well worth waiting impatiently for the next leg of it.