Too good not to post about: I got Charles Stross' Hidden Family, the second book in the very promising Family Trade series, in the mail today. Stross, whose Iron Sunrise and Singularity Sky were peerless intellectual marvels of 21st century sci-fi, has written a series that he acknowleges right off the bat is very reminiscent of Zelazny's timeless Amber series, which remains my personal favorite series, and in my opinion the best fiction ever written. Stross has taken Zelazny's very beautiful and well-written but solipsistic and (it pains me to say it, but...) simpleminded vision and transmuted it into something gritty and realistic. Zelazny's feudal lords either purportedly did not oppress anyone (nonroyal Amberites are seemingly thrilled to serve the born-to-power royal family for all eternity without representative gov't, in what amounts to a quasi-religious monarchy) or didn't care much if they did (it is written from the point of view of a prince who can essentially create not only servants but kingdoms devoted to himself, after all), and there's little acknowledgment of the suffering such a primitive existence must necessarily have entailed for the peasantry. Where Zelazny reflects a popular romanticized view of pre-Industrial Age societies, Stross (like S.M. Stirling in the also brilliant Nantucketer series) spares us none of the ugly drudgery, brutality and nearly universal grinding poverty endemic to such times.
Anyway, can't wait to read it, and I'll post a review when I finish.