I just finished reading The Hidden Family by Charles Stross about a half hour ago. It's the second novel in his fanstasy series, The Merchant Princes. I read the first novel, The Family Trade, a couple years ago when it was published. I liked the book well enough, though obviously not enough to keep buying the series in hardcover as it came out. After reading Halting State, it seemed like the time was right to backtrack and see what was going on.
The series centers around Miriam Beckstein, who discovered in the first book that she was actually a member of royalty - on another world. She was ensnared in the machinations of that family (the Clan), who made money by crossing over to our world and selling things such as drugs. Oh, and there were members of the Clan trying to kill her.
This time around Miriam sets up shop in yet another world, with the idea of introducing ideas that this alternate America (though nowhere close to ours in history) could use, such as efficient brake pads. Meanwhile, she is dodging the different factions trying to kill her, figuring out where the civil war in the Clan is coming from, and making a big political power play within the Clan. At times, the book moves her from plot point to plot point, with stops for speechs about a wide variety of ideas along the way. The dialogue can seem forced. And yet, the book is readable and it's easy to get caught up in the story. Stross has definitely written better books but I'm sure I'll be reading the next books in the series before too long.