“The Family Trade” by Charles Stross

Miriam was found as a baby next to her murdered mother.  She knew nothing of her birth family until much later.  Turns out she is from, and can travel back and forth to, a parallel universe.  The geography is the same and the history has some vague similarities, but it is much different.  The alternate world is stuck in the middle ages.  The Clan, a mob-style organization, controls import/export between the worlds — there are only a select few in the Family who possess the genetic trait that allows world-walking.  They are fabulously wealthy by selling our technology on the medieval side, and smuggling drugs on our side.  There are some very complicated politics going on that I (and Miriam too!) don’t fully grasp; unfortunately for Miriam the likely outcome is a violent end since several factions want her out of the picture, as she had been for 30+ years.  She is the heir to a major line of the Family.  Also we discover there is a THIRD world that nobody knows about; they have been sending assassins after Miriam too.   It’s almost comical that there are so many people gunning for her that we can’t tell who is behind what scheme.

This is definitely the start of a trilogy (or more); many strings are started and none wound up in the end.  Miriam needs to evade assassination and figure out what’s going on; also she is determined to bootstrap the medieval economy of the other world by finding some more legitimate way for the Clan to use their powers for good and still come out on top.

Kind of a cool scenario.  I wish I could world-walk.  But not if people would kill me because of it, I guess.

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