Charles Stross – Dark State

Well, here we are with the second volume of the trilogy Charlie began with last year’s Empire Games. All the threads from the first volume are coming together, with tentative diplomatic moves between Timeline Two (the almost but not quite our world) and Timeline Three (the rapidly developing one that’s being assisted by refugee world-walkers from Timeline One, which isn’t all that important any more, having been nuked by the US in the earlier trilogy). Of course, it couldn’t be that simple, with rival agencies working to different agendas, Cunning Plans that probably won’t become altogether clear until the final volume appears next year and, as they say, much much more.

There is a distinct possibility that all the political wrangling in the two main timelines could be made slightly less important by events in another timeline, where an investigation into a small black hole occupying the location where the Earth should be wakes up something that really should have been left to have a nice lie in. Have the ancient Forerunners been revived? Will they be a bit cross? Will they casually wipe out the annoying lifeforms in a couple of timelines? Or will they just need some really good coffee? All these questions might be answered in the next volume, but in the meantime you’ll have a whole pile of cliffhangers to think about, so thanks for that, Charlie, mutter….

Like everything Charlie does, it’s page-turning, entertaining stuff, with lots to think about. And there’s a useful essay at the end going into some detail about how Timeline Three got to where it is in 2020.

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