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.
As a spy thriller, Black Chamber stacks up with the old classics of Kipling and John Buchan. As sci-fi, it comes off as terribly plausible, with Tom Clancy-like mastery of old weapons and potential ones ... Alternate histories run on details, true facts you didn’t know, factoids that might have been true, challenging you to tell them apart. Black Chamber combines them on every level—political, historical and scientific—all worked into a tension-filled tearaway plot.
Stirling asks an interesting question in this thriller ... Stirling has a gift for world building, but by focusing on a secret spy organization called the Black Chamber... rather than making more use of the historical figures and events of the time, the end result is less compelling than it might have been ... [Black Chamber] well may develop into a strong series, if Stirling does a better job of melding fictional and historical elements.
Black Chamber is a rattlingly good spy thriller set in an alternate First World War; unfortunately its political background [is unsettling as the main plot] ... Stirling’s written a fast-paced, hectic adventure of a thriller. I wish the alternate history he set it in didn’t leave me so uneasy: it’s all fine and well for Americans to enjoy the fantasy of a history where their nation is even more dominant than it already was, but empires are painful, messy things, and some of us come from places where the effects of them are living memory. I wish I could enjoy this novel wholeheartedly.