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Publisher's Summary

The first novel in a brand-new alternate history series where Teddy Roosevelt is president for a second time right before WWI breaks out, and on his side is the Black Chamber, a secret spy network watching America's back. 

In 1912, just months before the election, President Taft dies suddenly, and Teddy Roosevelt wastes no time in grabbing power as he wins another term as president. By force of will, he ushers the US into a new, progressive era with the help of the Black Chamber, the mysterious spy organization watching his back. 

Luz O'Malley - a brilliant, deadly, and young Cuban Irish American agent of the Black Chamber - heads to Germany. She's on a luxury airship swarming with agents of every power on earth as well as conspirators from the Mexican Revolutionary Party and the sinister underground of the reborn Ku Klux Klan, yet none knows her true identity. Her anonymity will be essential as she strives to gain the secrets of Project Loki, an alarming German plan that Roosevelt fears will drag the US into a world war. To gather this intelligence, Luz will have to deceive the handsome yet ruthless Baron Horst von Duckler. She, along with naive Irish American Ciara Whelan, has to get this vital information back to the US - or millions of lives will be lost.

©2018 S. M. Stirling (P)2018 Recorded Books

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

a new old world

I've been a long time fan of the Emberverse and sighed when I heard he was writing a historical novel but was instead drawn into a detailed and stark what if of the time around WWI with a heroine of James Bonds caliber. Every word drips with meaning and you can tell he cared about this novel and with an author of Mr. Sterling's talent, this shines. If you are on the fence, get it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A wonderful story as only S. M. Stirling can tell

This is a wonderful alt history/spy story. S.M. Stirling already has a deserved reputation for world building but he's also done a great job telling a spy story. The alternate version of the first two decades of the 20th century that he builds is complete and compelling. The characters, especially Luz and Ciara, are extraordinary yet believable. I cannot wait for the next book!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Typical pretentious Stirling... still a good read

SM Stirling always loves to show off his research and love of strong, iconoclastic women and "Black Chamber" is no exception. Still, the premise of a more muscular WWI-era United States under TR versus Wilson is irresistible. Stirling does not address the dangers of an authoritarian, expansionist US government in this book, but he at least hints that it may be considered in subsequent installments. McLaren is passable as a reader, though his female voices sound a bit breathy and silly, especially for the characters.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Hard to put down

Long time Stirling fan. He's a writer who knows his craft well and has once again produced a page turner that can make you stay up past your bedtime.

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Needs a Sequel!!!!

The best alt history backdrop in a while! Get past any love story. Look at the bigger picture.

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An outstanding alternate history novel

Black Chamber takes place in 1916, during President Roosevelt's third term as President of the United States. The US is about to enter WWI on the side of Great Britain and France. The book centers around an intelligence operative under deep cover. The suspense kept me engrossed in this story. The actions of Germany are unbelievably destructive and the outcome is quite dramatic. Not wanting to spoil the book for those who have not yet read it, I will merely say that this novel is very difficult to put down. You will be very glad you purchased it and I am confident that you will join me in hopes of another book in this universe being available soon.

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Fun but credulity-straining

I've been enjoying Stirling's Emberverse series for years, and with that apparently drawing to a close, I've been looking forward to his next project. BLACK CHAMBER is a self-contained alternate history tale, but I would not be surprised to learn it was the first of a new series. S.M. Stirling knows how to craft a believable counterfactual setting and appealing characters, and combine them to tell a great story--which this most certainly is. But compelling alternate history requires, first, a plausible point of departure from the recorded sequence of events, and second, a consistent unfolding of events from the point of divergence. This book has the first element. That President Taft, who was notoriously obese, might have died of a heart attack in the Spring of 1912, is perfectly plausible, as is the notion that Teddy Roosevelt would then have won the nomination and the presidency. Subsequent divergences in the timeline of BLACK CHAMBER, however, do not always flow cleanly from this point of departure. In particular, while some of the technological developments on display in the alternate 1916 are reasonable extrapolations, others strain the bounds of credulity.

Stirling is fond of inserting words, phrases, quotations, and even short dialogues in languages other than English. Readers who know those languages must sometimes be prepared to pardon his lapses. This book is replete with German and Spanish, both of which I know. Having listened to the book rather than read it, however, I have trouble assessing the author's due diligence, for the simple reason that narrator Todd McLaren is almost entirely incomprehensible in both languages. Oddly, his German is less incomprehensible than his Spanish, which sounds like nothing so much as a cross between Italian and Martian. This is a shame, because McLaren is a very capable narrator in other respects, and because unmangled, the Spanish and German would have added color and nuance, rather than cringe and confusion.

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Awful.

This book suffered from two problems: it was poorly written and poorly read. The story was probably 30% interior monologue, half of which is questionably useful exposition, the other half of which is implausible and overwritten internal narrative. The rest of the story is essentially a badly written spy novel with all of the normal faults thereof (ridiculous feats, bad dialogue, extraneous detail-Mr Stirling did lots of research and included every last thing he found in the story, narrative coherence or pace be damned-and an outsized hero. That the outsized hero was a bisexual woman of immigrant parents didn’t rescue anything. It just made the fact it was a badly written, bad story all the more obvious. Fortunately, the narrator was able to further illuminate that as well. Featuring wandering accents for the main characters (a California born hero who’s Cuban mother somehow so affected her daughter’s English that she, in a single conversation, can speak with an Italian, Mexican, Canadian, and mid-Atlantic accent) and a comic voice for the 20-year old Boston Irish love interest-think A constipated Mr Magoo and you’re. It far wrong-he really brought the story to life. As much as I wanted to like this story, I just could not. It was awful.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful