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Rita's 2020 USA is still five decades ahead of the Commonwealth, but the Commonwealth has computers and nukes and world-walkers.And the Commonwealth has something else, something the USA once probably had but has forgotten: a revolutionary democratic ideology and a deep state that believes it has a mission to spread democracy across the multiverse, starting with the USA.What the Commonwealth means by democracy and what that word is commonly understood to mean in Rita's time line (and ours) are not the same thing .

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This book was originally planned for publication in 2014—with a rather different adopted child, Rita Douglas, being taken aside by Men in Black and made a job offer she isn't allowed to refuse.

It transpires that in the Grim Meathook only slightly glow-in-the-dark Future-USA that emerged from the events at the climax of "The Revolution Trade", the US government has become totally paranoid about world-walkers, and has handed over responsibility for securing the nation against threats from all other parallel universes to the Department of Homeland Security who, in a classic example of Mission Creep have begun to invade and occupy other time lines, engage in large-scale resource extraction (and prototype carbon sequestration operations, by dumping waste CO2 in neighbouring uninhabited Earths), and turned the USA into the kind of total surveillance hell-hole that it turns out ( hard these days?

When Miriam gave Adam Burroughs, the leader of the Revolutionary Party histories of those revolutions and more back in 2003, he decided to learn from other revolutions' mistakes, and so far he's succeeded: the Commonwealth is rapidly outstripping the rival French Empire (capital: St Petersburg) which dominates Africa and Eurasia in this time line, and has its own paratime exploration program to rival the USA's. But the First Man has stage IV cancer, and as he lies in his sick bed it is becoming apparent that the Commonwealth is about to undergo its first change in executive power since the revolution.

(The First Man's constitutional powers correspond more to those of the Grand Ayatollah in the Iranian system than to a US president: it's a position occupied for life, by the system's supreme constitutional judge and ceremonial head of state.) Various Party Commissioners are jockeying for position, and across the ocean, the King in Exile is looking to the turbulence as an opportunity for restoration of the monarchy (as happened with the collapse of the English Protectorate in 1660).

(The working title of the project was, you will be shocked and horrified to learn, "Merchant Princes: The Next Generation".) If you want to go back and re-read the original series, I strongly recommend reading the collected omnibus editions instead.

(Link goes to the US "buy my books" page; UK version here.) The original series was written circa 2002-2006; I was still learning how to do long-form narrative fiction properly, and I made a lot of minor improvements when I re-mastered the books in 2012.

This is why the ebook price drop and small format paperback have already happened in the UK, but the ebook price cut and US paperback of "Empire Games" are delayed until December 5th.

(There are no current plans for a mass market release, despite which are optimistically saying that you can pre-order one for delivery on January 1st, 2099.

After all, who cares about what they may have gotten up to back in a Communist state that collapsed three decades ago?

We fairly rapidly discover that the reason Colonel Smith's unit within the DHS (yes, Colonel Smith: the original Family Trade Organization was absorbed by DHS and more or less took it over, immediately after the events in "The Revolution Trade") want a human paratime spy is because in the course of their routine exploration of parallel time-lines, most of which are uninhabited or occupied only by paleolithic tribes, they've discovered something excitingly different—a time line with electrified freight railroads, air defense radar, and nuclear-tipped surface-to-air missiles that can shoot down high-altitude drones.

But, just as a time traveller to our own 1942 wouldn't necessarily see any signs of the radar, computers, jet engines, ballistic missiles, or nuclear weapons that were all developing rapidly in secret laboratories, Miriam was unaware of the true state of tech in time line three.

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