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Now in paperback?from the author of Saturn?s Children.

In the year 2018, a daring bank robbery has taken place at Hayek Associates. The suspects are a band of marauding orcs, with a dragon in tow for fire support, and the bank is located within the virtual reality land of Avalon Four. But Sergeant Sue Smith discovers that this virtual world robbery may be linked to some real world devastation.
Published: Penguin Group on
ISBN: 9781101208793
List price: $7.99
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I really liked the beginning and end of this book, and I think Stross is smart about technology and geo-politics. In fact, I had trouble following the middle because I needed my hand held through some of the gaming-infrastructure discussion, not because it wasn't smart. The characters seem complex but are actually sort of TV style stereotypes (a quiet career woman who secretly kicks LARPing ass, a disheveled game designer who's secretly socially awkward, nasty suits, a dyke cop--shocking!). I guess I just wanted more showing of the near-future world he imagines and less exposition clunky characterization. But overall, decent. Oh, and I'm not a gamer (aside from my childhood adventures in D&D) so maybe this book is more exciting for gamers.more
I'd really like to give this three and a half stars. It was pretty cute, and the idea of the real-life spy game was neat.

As many others have noted, Stross has a fondness for enormous chunks of exposition, but I guess it doesn't bother me as much. I like learning about stuff, as long as it's interesting stuff.

I'm taking off points for:
--intermittent use of annoying Scottish dialect
--constantly referring to an accountant as a "librarian" because she's...nerdy? dunno.
--rather perfunctory character development in general, and specifically the romance partmore
I probably would have given it four stars, but I work in the MMO industry and damn, Stross has it nailed. This is a brilliant look at the industry in the comparatively near future, with some fascinating speculation on the way massively multiplayer online games could spread and evolve, and the sub-industries that don't quite exist yet but will soon. (I bet someone has an FDIC-type firm in EVE Online already.)

Aside from gamer-wankery, this is a ripping good thriller, with some twists that completely blindsided me and the potential for some truly excellent sequels. It's also one of the only novels I've read that is written in the second person - and pulls it off. Definitely fits with the game background ("you are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike") and after three pages I stopped noticing it at all.more
In 2018, A bank in an MMORPG is robbed, and an insurance fraud investigator and a game developer try to figure out how and why.There are some pure genius moments in here: including the description of what any romance novel would call a "look deep into each other's eyes" as "information transfer ... via some kind of sub-verbal mammalian protocol layer." The technology is ours, just slightly better (enhanced reality glasses, remote-driver-operated cars), and the speed of information transfer is ours, just slightly faster. The audience is thrown into a lot of information, just like the characters, and you have to get up to speed quickly, and then go back and wikipedia a few things later, like Sue parsing through interview recordings, or Jack grepping the treasure logs. This might be the most realistic capture of the modern work environment that I've yet read: the bizarre job interview, the jargon, the office politics at Dietrich-Brunner Associates, walking into a contract that turns out to be a thousand-layer onion with a nuclear bomb in the middle of it.more
A fun and suspenseful romp through a near-future world of augmented reality glasses and video games. I like books that examine the consequences of technology we are developing now, and this one certainly does that - it examines the joys and hazards of augmented reality, and particularly the possibilities and vulnerabilities of a world that is connected online. The book focuses on three characters who, in various capacities, are called in to investigate a bank robbery in an online video game. They find themselves involved in something much, much bigger and much more dangerous. The plot gets pretty complex, and there are times when I felt like I didn't quite understand what was going on, but by the end, everything came together neatly. I respect Stross for not dumbing things down for his readers. For people who are unfamiliar with the online world, some of this might be confusing (I found him using slang that not even all computer geeks know - it was fun, because I'm the kind of computer geek who does know this slang so I really felt like the book was speaking to me, but other people might be confused). The book is exciting, hard to put down, at times creepy, and often laugh-out-loud funny. I thoroughly enjoyed it.The story is told from the point of view of three different characters, but the whole thing is written in the second person: "you." Stross did this to emphasize the role-playing and video game aspects of the story. I know some people find this really annoying. I wasn't annoyed by it, but I'm not really sure that it added anything to the book either.more
cyberpunk, near future, Scotland, augmented realitymore
In a nutshell it's a science fiction crime drama about a robbery in a virtual MMO world. Unexpectedly a bunch of Orcs storm the main bank in the game and make off with €26 million worth of items which is supposed to be impossible. Sorting out the mess is Scottish Police Sergeant Sue Smith, Forensic Accountant Elaine and Programmer and Gaming Expert Jack. It's their job to find out what happened, track down the items and generally save the day.It's set about 10 years in the future from now. Technology is similar to what we have now but just taken to the next level. People use their phones to order taxis, get around and many other useful tasks. They also wear glasses that enhance their vision and connect them to the technology grid. You can totally see a lot of the ideas coming true in a few more years. Anyway, back to the plot. It seems there is much to the robbery than the item theft. Could it be a cover up of a much larger conspiracy? How far does said conspiracy reach?It took me a little while to get into the novel as it's told completely in second person e.g. you enter the room and in front of you is a white desk with a computer monitor on it type stuff etc. It reads like either a choose-your-own-adventure or an episode of Knightmare (anyone else remember this awesome tv show?). Once I did though I actually enjoyed it much more than I was expecting. The characters (especially Elaine and Jack) were really well developed and I cared about what happened to them. The plot was quite complex but to be fair it wasn't solving the crime that kept me hooked. It was more getting caught up in the world and the techno speak. A lot of it went over my head, but some of the references to geek culture were awesome! It made me feel more intelligent just reading it.more
I really enjoyed this novel, so much so that I read it again a second time immediately after my first read. I found the science fiction to be first class, a really realistic technological, social and even political vision of the future, although perhaps a future slightly further away than 2017. Perhaps familiriaty played a role in my enjoyment of this book, having lived in Scotland for all of my life and Edinburgh for a long time. The setting was perfect and there was observational humour that is current both to the Scottish people and our cities. The characters were well developed, interesting and realistic and the situations that they found themselves in are believable given the technology. The blurring of technology and reality was something that I found particularly interesting given the rate at which technology and immersive gaming are developing. Well worth a read.more
A very-near future SF thriller focusing on games and encryption. Picture, if you will, a geeky Tom Clancy. Definitely an enjoyable read, just not one I'm incredibly enthusiastic over.It has a few barriers to entry: The book is written in second person: as it shifts from one POV character to another, it maintains a style of "You glance at Elaine," or "You wonder how much of the truth he's telling." It's odd, but easy enough to get used to. One character's Scottish dialect is likewise a mild stumbling block, but you can read through it. Finally, I think he's slow to weave the threads together into a plot you can follow. The upshot of this is that, for me at least, it took until about 80 or 90 pages into a 350 page book to get comfortable.The future he paints is a plausible one, and he examines it a bit tongue-in-cheek, but no so much so that you can only enjoy it as humor.I suppose the problem I have with it is one inherent on the (techno thriller) genre. As the, viewpoint and therefore knowledge, shifts, it's difficult to put yourself firmly into the head of the character with the current focus. So doing a caper/spy/mystery plot with shifting focus is hard. My biggest issue is that, at least for me, Halting State doesn't quite beat that.more
Good story, generally interesting characters. I might have given this 5 stars, but I had to knock it down both for the use of 2nd person present tense throughout, plus the ending was a bit too much of an extended exposition explaining why everything had happened the way it had. (I kind of get why he tried the 2nd person present tense thing, but it's just too distracting for me to be effective.)more
So glad that someone at work leant me this - I'd been meaning to read some Charles Stross for years, but never got round to it. It was great fun, although did tend towards techno-babble and lots of exposition and explaining what on earth was going on. The latter was necessary, else I wouldn't have had a clue!more
Could not get past the use of Present Perfect Tense and the use of Scottish Dialect, not just for people's speech, as it IS set in Edinburgh, but for general narrated descriptions. Might have been a fantastic book, but these two narrative traits are highly distracting.more
As with Stross' Merchant Princes series, this book kept me reading even though I was on the wrong edge of the line between understanding/not understanding for much of the book. Maybe you have to be an IT professional and/or economics major to truly get this book, but I got enough of it to enjoy it, and the end actually does wrap it up and explain things in a little bit of layman's terms.more
The clarity point for "why am I reading this" hit about 50 pages in and this mystery set in Edinburgh and virtual reality. The storyline is really well played out from three perspectives. The last couple pages in that make up the last chapter are quite wonderful.more
Gaming/virtuality nerdiness taken to satisfying level of complexity and execution. Many clear jabs at gaming industry and good insight above all - no doubt Stross sees the future in the science of gaming in sharper focus than most. Money is moving in the virtual worlds and that in essence means people are starting to recognize (at least one part of) their value. Book has traces of both Stirling and Coupland while adding distinct thumbprint from author.more
Inside the wide concourse, everything looks like, well, the kind of trade show that attracts the general public. There are booths and garish displays and sales staff looking professionally friendly, and there are tables with rows of gaming boxes on them. There's even a stray bookstore, selling game strategy guides printed on dead tree pulp. 'Check what it looks like in Zone,' suggest Jack, so you tweak your glasses, and suddenly it’s a whole different scene. The concourse is full of monsters and marvels. A sleeping dragon looms over a pirate hoard, scales as gaudy as a chameleon on a diffraction grating: it's the size of a young Apatosaurus, scaly bat-like wings folded back along its glittering flanks liker fantastic jet-fighter.A theft inside a computer game, leads to murder in the real world, and the Scottish police are not the only agency that becomes inch are involved in the investigation. I found it slow-going to start with, but the story picked up speed by the half-way point.more
His writing sometimes gets too carried away with being too witty and clever, which pushes into pretentiousness of nerd-speak; however, it still made me laugh out loud. The characters are a little thin, but realistic. The plot is frenetic and engaging. I love that Stross can take mundane matters of technology and drive very profound and griping concepts. His plots are vehicles for fantastic "what-if" explorations in the grand tradition of great sci-fi.more
From its hilarious opening chapter right to the end, Stross keeps up a hectic pace. A great read from a vivid imagination.more
It is no secret that I enjoy cyberpunk, near fiction, alt fiction, sci fi, etc., so I was admittedly predisposed to liking this book. I was not disappointed. And despite a certain amount of acronyms and tech jargon, I found the book eminently enjoyable.Halting State takes place in the near future, 2017, in an independent Scotland (and Scotland has the euro; England is still using pounds). LARPs (live action role playing) & MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games) are par for the course; everyone wears camera-video screen glasses; and taxis are unmanned, instead being driven remotely. The three main characters, Sue (cop sergeant), Elaine (forensic accountant) and Jack (gamer, programmer), are brought together when they are each called in - for very different reasons - to solve a robbery. The thing is, the robbery took place *inside* an MMORPG. So is it really a crime? What motivated it? What's at stake? And what's really going on?Halting State uses the 2nd person and present tense, each chapter focusing on one of the 3 main characters. These are tricky devices, but for me they suited the novel perfectly. One of the appeals (to me, at least) of the idea of virtual reality and gaming is the ability to feel simultaneously like you are directly in the action and yet safely removed from it, looking at it from the outside. Using the 2nd person & present tense throughout captures that feeling - you aren't right inside the character's head, as in 1st person, nor are you fully outside it as with 3rd person. Other aspects of the novel lend themselves to a SIMs experience, too. For example, cops can spot people with criminal records by colored diamonds rotating over their heads. This book is what's best about speculative near-future fiction. It marries some futuristic technology and politics, but these developments feel oh-so-near to where we are headed now; in fact, most of the technology in this book already exists. In addition, there is a lot of (both sardonic and pun) humor*, but without becoming annoyingly wink-wink-nudge-nudge. Stross makes sharp observations about the future of technology, business and geopolitics, and you sense none of it is that far off from being our reality. *one chapter subheading: "making plans for Nigel".more
This near-future story is about a bank robbery that exposes a whole lot more. In Edinburgh, Scotland of the year 2018, a high-tech company called Hayek Associates suffers a bank robbery. A senior officer of the firm panics, and calls the local police, instead of taking care of things internally. Things get weird when Sergeant Sue Smith is told that the robbery took place inside a virtual reality games called Avalon Four. Forgetting for a moment that this is supposed to be impossible, Hayek Associates is about to have its Initial Public Offering of stock. If word gets out, the company (and its virtual economies) will crash hard. This may not be your average bank robbery, but the amount of money involved, over 26 million Euros, is very real.Elaine Barnaby, a London-based forensic accountant, is sent to Edinburgh to audit the bank from the inside. The unspoken part is that, if anything goes wrong, her firm will plead ignorance, and her neck will be on the chopping block. She is provided with a guide through the world of online gaming named Jack Reed, who, coincidentally (or not so coincidentally) became unemployed the week before.Very Important People in newly independent Scotland are interested in the case, including the Scottish equivalent of the FBI. Brussels (the home of the European Union) gets involved in the case. There are Chinese hackers involved, who may or may not be assisted by Chinese State Security. Copspace, a sort of private VR database system for the police, which is supposedly secure, gets hacked. It is a world where everyone has access to the Internet through their eyeglasses. There is even a zombie flash mob.I understood very little of the technical parts, because I know nothing about online gaming, but I loved reading this book. It is very cool and cutting edge, and works quite well as a straight thriller. If I could, I would give this book three thumbs up.more
It took awhile to get into this book as it is written in the second person and getting used to some of the terminology (I'm not a MMO gamer) but I enjoyed the book.The book starts with a bank heist in an online game and the story is told through three characters: a police officer, an insurance investigator and a computer consultant. The world of Scotland in the year 2018 is much more wired than today but most of the technology discussed exists or has been discussed. The book starts a little slow but picks up speed about 100 pages in. It goes in a very different direction than I thought it was headed and that made it a much more fun book to read and a page-turner towards the end. If you are a MMO gamer, this book would probably interest you.more
I really liked some of the concepts Stross used in this book (e.g., tunneling over game traffic, human weakness exposes the threat). I think it is holding up well, and will continue to do so; it's already somewhat prophetic, given Google's announcement earlier this year. And while I really enjoyed the pace of the opening, I couldn't help feeling that that made the inevitable expository sections seem to drag all the more. However, my biggest criticism would have to be Stross's use of the second person narrative. While I don't have anything against this device in general, Stross's switching between three different perspectives, combined with his attempts to build suspense by hiding fundamental (and, ultimately, mundane) aspects of the narrator (in the case of Jack), proved to be both frustrating and annoying.more
I really liked this book, but I'm not sure that most people would. My suspicion is that you'd need a hook of some sort to get you far enough into it to be drawn in.If you are a gamer (computer, D&D, anything like that); if you are a technology fan, wondering where we'll go next; if you are fascinated by the implications of technology on society, then you'll probably enjoy this book. If you like a good spy novel/techno thriller, I strongly recommend you take the time to get into this book.Otherwise, I just don't know if this book will be worth it to you.I had a slow time getting started with my reading. It felt like the same issue I have getting into Jane Austen-- sometimes I can quickly slip into the language and the world, and sometimes it takes a while before the story flows. It certainly isn't that it is badly written, just that it is different from what I usually read. The book is told from 3 alternating POVs-- Sue (a police officer), Elaine (an accountant) & Jack (a game programmer). The reader learns about the characters in the book and the world the story is set in from their viewpoints. However, none of them know about the crime that occurs, and the secrets that are discovered, until they find out over the course of the book.Once the background is out of the way, the story really gets going, and it goes into full adventure mode, with chases, virtual battles, dangerous mistakes, giant leaps of logic, boy meets girl moments, and so on. I found Halting State fun and mentally stimulating.more
This book just didn't work for me. It's in second person, and switches between multiple perspectives. It is experimental. It may have worked for some readers, but for me, the experiment failed.more
The whole thing is written in second person perspective, and I just couldn't get into it for that reason.It might be a really good book, I just won't find out since I only struggled through the first couple of chaptersmore
Charlie Stross does what Charlie Stross does, this time in a semi dystopic Scotland wherein a bank robbery in a MMORPG sets on a chain of events leading to a Much Bigger Problem.A much better job of non standard scifi than is usually done, though some of the character interactions seem forced, and the second person point of view, while being an excellent tie in to gaming, takes some immersion before being natural.more
Really nice near future novel from Stross. Explores how virtual worlds will develop and in particular blur with the real world to provide augmented reality.The layered plot is also well formed with convincing characterisation and a fast pace that keeps you reading. A good solid light read, that unfortunately will probably date quite quickly.more
Great book that is done a disservice by its geeky plot blurb of "virtual robbery with orcs". I put a lot of faith in his Hugo nominations and am glad now that I did. Stross has an almost fanatical attention to detail when using technology in his stories that you can see just as easily being replaced by "tech" filler as with Star Trek (something Ron Moore talked about in a speech, and that Stross wrote a lengthy blog post about). This aids credibility and readability to his story, and makes his work feel a lot like a higher-tech William Gibson, a writer I really enjoy. I specifically liked the idea of LARP spy networks in the story. I don't know if he invented the idea, or just made it his own, but it worked great as a plot device.I thought the author's use of multiple viewpoints made the story jumpy, but generally worked well with the exception of the policewoman, who I felt was too far away from his other characters.more
While I love the near-future setting and the overly monitored world, I'm a little put off by the second-person narrative. While it ties in neatly with the MMOPRG suject matter, it is kind of jarring and gimmicky to read.more
A fun read, mad as usual for Stross. I'm amazed how natural it was to read a whole novel written in second person: I thought of it as a bit of gimmick when I heard about it, but actually it reads entirely smoothly.more
Read all 49 reviews

Reviews

I really liked the beginning and end of this book, and I think Stross is smart about technology and geo-politics. In fact, I had trouble following the middle because I needed my hand held through some of the gaming-infrastructure discussion, not because it wasn't smart. The characters seem complex but are actually sort of TV style stereotypes (a quiet career woman who secretly kicks LARPing ass, a disheveled game designer who's secretly socially awkward, nasty suits, a dyke cop--shocking!). I guess I just wanted more showing of the near-future world he imagines and less exposition clunky characterization. But overall, decent. Oh, and I'm not a gamer (aside from my childhood adventures in D&D) so maybe this book is more exciting for gamers.more
I'd really like to give this three and a half stars. It was pretty cute, and the idea of the real-life spy game was neat.

As many others have noted, Stross has a fondness for enormous chunks of exposition, but I guess it doesn't bother me as much. I like learning about stuff, as long as it's interesting stuff.

I'm taking off points for:
--intermittent use of annoying Scottish dialect
--constantly referring to an accountant as a "librarian" because she's...nerdy? dunno.
--rather perfunctory character development in general, and specifically the romance partmore
I probably would have given it four stars, but I work in the MMO industry and damn, Stross has it nailed. This is a brilliant look at the industry in the comparatively near future, with some fascinating speculation on the way massively multiplayer online games could spread and evolve, and the sub-industries that don't quite exist yet but will soon. (I bet someone has an FDIC-type firm in EVE Online already.)

Aside from gamer-wankery, this is a ripping good thriller, with some twists that completely blindsided me and the potential for some truly excellent sequels. It's also one of the only novels I've read that is written in the second person - and pulls it off. Definitely fits with the game background ("you are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike") and after three pages I stopped noticing it at all.more
In 2018, A bank in an MMORPG is robbed, and an insurance fraud investigator and a game developer try to figure out how and why.There are some pure genius moments in here: including the description of what any romance novel would call a "look deep into each other's eyes" as "information transfer ... via some kind of sub-verbal mammalian protocol layer." The technology is ours, just slightly better (enhanced reality glasses, remote-driver-operated cars), and the speed of information transfer is ours, just slightly faster. The audience is thrown into a lot of information, just like the characters, and you have to get up to speed quickly, and then go back and wikipedia a few things later, like Sue parsing through interview recordings, or Jack grepping the treasure logs. This might be the most realistic capture of the modern work environment that I've yet read: the bizarre job interview, the jargon, the office politics at Dietrich-Brunner Associates, walking into a contract that turns out to be a thousand-layer onion with a nuclear bomb in the middle of it.more
A fun and suspenseful romp through a near-future world of augmented reality glasses and video games. I like books that examine the consequences of technology we are developing now, and this one certainly does that - it examines the joys and hazards of augmented reality, and particularly the possibilities and vulnerabilities of a world that is connected online. The book focuses on three characters who, in various capacities, are called in to investigate a bank robbery in an online video game. They find themselves involved in something much, much bigger and much more dangerous. The plot gets pretty complex, and there are times when I felt like I didn't quite understand what was going on, but by the end, everything came together neatly. I respect Stross for not dumbing things down for his readers. For people who are unfamiliar with the online world, some of this might be confusing (I found him using slang that not even all computer geeks know - it was fun, because I'm the kind of computer geek who does know this slang so I really felt like the book was speaking to me, but other people might be confused). The book is exciting, hard to put down, at times creepy, and often laugh-out-loud funny. I thoroughly enjoyed it.The story is told from the point of view of three different characters, but the whole thing is written in the second person: "you." Stross did this to emphasize the role-playing and video game aspects of the story. I know some people find this really annoying. I wasn't annoyed by it, but I'm not really sure that it added anything to the book either.more
cyberpunk, near future, Scotland, augmented realitymore
In a nutshell it's a science fiction crime drama about a robbery in a virtual MMO world. Unexpectedly a bunch of Orcs storm the main bank in the game and make off with €26 million worth of items which is supposed to be impossible. Sorting out the mess is Scottish Police Sergeant Sue Smith, Forensic Accountant Elaine and Programmer and Gaming Expert Jack. It's their job to find out what happened, track down the items and generally save the day.It's set about 10 years in the future from now. Technology is similar to what we have now but just taken to the next level. People use their phones to order taxis, get around and many other useful tasks. They also wear glasses that enhance their vision and connect them to the technology grid. You can totally see a lot of the ideas coming true in a few more years. Anyway, back to the plot. It seems there is much to the robbery than the item theft. Could it be a cover up of a much larger conspiracy? How far does said conspiracy reach?It took me a little while to get into the novel as it's told completely in second person e.g. you enter the room and in front of you is a white desk with a computer monitor on it type stuff etc. It reads like either a choose-your-own-adventure or an episode of Knightmare (anyone else remember this awesome tv show?). Once I did though I actually enjoyed it much more than I was expecting. The characters (especially Elaine and Jack) were really well developed and I cared about what happened to them. The plot was quite complex but to be fair it wasn't solving the crime that kept me hooked. It was more getting caught up in the world and the techno speak. A lot of it went over my head, but some of the references to geek culture were awesome! It made me feel more intelligent just reading it.more
I really enjoyed this novel, so much so that I read it again a second time immediately after my first read. I found the science fiction to be first class, a really realistic technological, social and even political vision of the future, although perhaps a future slightly further away than 2017. Perhaps familiriaty played a role in my enjoyment of this book, having lived in Scotland for all of my life and Edinburgh for a long time. The setting was perfect and there was observational humour that is current both to the Scottish people and our cities. The characters were well developed, interesting and realistic and the situations that they found themselves in are believable given the technology. The blurring of technology and reality was something that I found particularly interesting given the rate at which technology and immersive gaming are developing. Well worth a read.more
A very-near future SF thriller focusing on games and encryption. Picture, if you will, a geeky Tom Clancy. Definitely an enjoyable read, just not one I'm incredibly enthusiastic over.It has a few barriers to entry: The book is written in second person: as it shifts from one POV character to another, it maintains a style of "You glance at Elaine," or "You wonder how much of the truth he's telling." It's odd, but easy enough to get used to. One character's Scottish dialect is likewise a mild stumbling block, but you can read through it. Finally, I think he's slow to weave the threads together into a plot you can follow. The upshot of this is that, for me at least, it took until about 80 or 90 pages into a 350 page book to get comfortable.The future he paints is a plausible one, and he examines it a bit tongue-in-cheek, but no so much so that you can only enjoy it as humor.I suppose the problem I have with it is one inherent on the (techno thriller) genre. As the, viewpoint and therefore knowledge, shifts, it's difficult to put yourself firmly into the head of the character with the current focus. So doing a caper/spy/mystery plot with shifting focus is hard. My biggest issue is that, at least for me, Halting State doesn't quite beat that.more
Good story, generally interesting characters. I might have given this 5 stars, but I had to knock it down both for the use of 2nd person present tense throughout, plus the ending was a bit too much of an extended exposition explaining why everything had happened the way it had. (I kind of get why he tried the 2nd person present tense thing, but it's just too distracting for me to be effective.)more
So glad that someone at work leant me this - I'd been meaning to read some Charles Stross for years, but never got round to it. It was great fun, although did tend towards techno-babble and lots of exposition and explaining what on earth was going on. The latter was necessary, else I wouldn't have had a clue!more
Could not get past the use of Present Perfect Tense and the use of Scottish Dialect, not just for people's speech, as it IS set in Edinburgh, but for general narrated descriptions. Might have been a fantastic book, but these two narrative traits are highly distracting.more
As with Stross' Merchant Princes series, this book kept me reading even though I was on the wrong edge of the line between understanding/not understanding for much of the book. Maybe you have to be an IT professional and/or economics major to truly get this book, but I got enough of it to enjoy it, and the end actually does wrap it up and explain things in a little bit of layman's terms.more
The clarity point for "why am I reading this" hit about 50 pages in and this mystery set in Edinburgh and virtual reality. The storyline is really well played out from three perspectives. The last couple pages in that make up the last chapter are quite wonderful.more
Gaming/virtuality nerdiness taken to satisfying level of complexity and execution. Many clear jabs at gaming industry and good insight above all - no doubt Stross sees the future in the science of gaming in sharper focus than most. Money is moving in the virtual worlds and that in essence means people are starting to recognize (at least one part of) their value. Book has traces of both Stirling and Coupland while adding distinct thumbprint from author.more
Inside the wide concourse, everything looks like, well, the kind of trade show that attracts the general public. There are booths and garish displays and sales staff looking professionally friendly, and there are tables with rows of gaming boxes on them. There's even a stray bookstore, selling game strategy guides printed on dead tree pulp. 'Check what it looks like in Zone,' suggest Jack, so you tweak your glasses, and suddenly it’s a whole different scene. The concourse is full of monsters and marvels. A sleeping dragon looms over a pirate hoard, scales as gaudy as a chameleon on a diffraction grating: it's the size of a young Apatosaurus, scaly bat-like wings folded back along its glittering flanks liker fantastic jet-fighter.A theft inside a computer game, leads to murder in the real world, and the Scottish police are not the only agency that becomes inch are involved in the investigation. I found it slow-going to start with, but the story picked up speed by the half-way point.more
His writing sometimes gets too carried away with being too witty and clever, which pushes into pretentiousness of nerd-speak; however, it still made me laugh out loud. The characters are a little thin, but realistic. The plot is frenetic and engaging. I love that Stross can take mundane matters of technology and drive very profound and griping concepts. His plots are vehicles for fantastic "what-if" explorations in the grand tradition of great sci-fi.more
From its hilarious opening chapter right to the end, Stross keeps up a hectic pace. A great read from a vivid imagination.more
It is no secret that I enjoy cyberpunk, near fiction, alt fiction, sci fi, etc., so I was admittedly predisposed to liking this book. I was not disappointed. And despite a certain amount of acronyms and tech jargon, I found the book eminently enjoyable.Halting State takes place in the near future, 2017, in an independent Scotland (and Scotland has the euro; England is still using pounds). LARPs (live action role playing) & MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games) are par for the course; everyone wears camera-video screen glasses; and taxis are unmanned, instead being driven remotely. The three main characters, Sue (cop sergeant), Elaine (forensic accountant) and Jack (gamer, programmer), are brought together when they are each called in - for very different reasons - to solve a robbery. The thing is, the robbery took place *inside* an MMORPG. So is it really a crime? What motivated it? What's at stake? And what's really going on?Halting State uses the 2nd person and present tense, each chapter focusing on one of the 3 main characters. These are tricky devices, but for me they suited the novel perfectly. One of the appeals (to me, at least) of the idea of virtual reality and gaming is the ability to feel simultaneously like you are directly in the action and yet safely removed from it, looking at it from the outside. Using the 2nd person & present tense throughout captures that feeling - you aren't right inside the character's head, as in 1st person, nor are you fully outside it as with 3rd person. Other aspects of the novel lend themselves to a SIMs experience, too. For example, cops can spot people with criminal records by colored diamonds rotating over their heads. This book is what's best about speculative near-future fiction. It marries some futuristic technology and politics, but these developments feel oh-so-near to where we are headed now; in fact, most of the technology in this book already exists. In addition, there is a lot of (both sardonic and pun) humor*, but without becoming annoyingly wink-wink-nudge-nudge. Stross makes sharp observations about the future of technology, business and geopolitics, and you sense none of it is that far off from being our reality. *one chapter subheading: "making plans for Nigel".more
This near-future story is about a bank robbery that exposes a whole lot more. In Edinburgh, Scotland of the year 2018, a high-tech company called Hayek Associates suffers a bank robbery. A senior officer of the firm panics, and calls the local police, instead of taking care of things internally. Things get weird when Sergeant Sue Smith is told that the robbery took place inside a virtual reality games called Avalon Four. Forgetting for a moment that this is supposed to be impossible, Hayek Associates is about to have its Initial Public Offering of stock. If word gets out, the company (and its virtual economies) will crash hard. This may not be your average bank robbery, but the amount of money involved, over 26 million Euros, is very real.Elaine Barnaby, a London-based forensic accountant, is sent to Edinburgh to audit the bank from the inside. The unspoken part is that, if anything goes wrong, her firm will plead ignorance, and her neck will be on the chopping block. She is provided with a guide through the world of online gaming named Jack Reed, who, coincidentally (or not so coincidentally) became unemployed the week before.Very Important People in newly independent Scotland are interested in the case, including the Scottish equivalent of the FBI. Brussels (the home of the European Union) gets involved in the case. There are Chinese hackers involved, who may or may not be assisted by Chinese State Security. Copspace, a sort of private VR database system for the police, which is supposedly secure, gets hacked. It is a world where everyone has access to the Internet through their eyeglasses. There is even a zombie flash mob.I understood very little of the technical parts, because I know nothing about online gaming, but I loved reading this book. It is very cool and cutting edge, and works quite well as a straight thriller. If I could, I would give this book three thumbs up.more
It took awhile to get into this book as it is written in the second person and getting used to some of the terminology (I'm not a MMO gamer) but I enjoyed the book.The book starts with a bank heist in an online game and the story is told through three characters: a police officer, an insurance investigator and a computer consultant. The world of Scotland in the year 2018 is much more wired than today but most of the technology discussed exists or has been discussed. The book starts a little slow but picks up speed about 100 pages in. It goes in a very different direction than I thought it was headed and that made it a much more fun book to read and a page-turner towards the end. If you are a MMO gamer, this book would probably interest you.more
I really liked some of the concepts Stross used in this book (e.g., tunneling over game traffic, human weakness exposes the threat). I think it is holding up well, and will continue to do so; it's already somewhat prophetic, given Google's announcement earlier this year. And while I really enjoyed the pace of the opening, I couldn't help feeling that that made the inevitable expository sections seem to drag all the more. However, my biggest criticism would have to be Stross's use of the second person narrative. While I don't have anything against this device in general, Stross's switching between three different perspectives, combined with his attempts to build suspense by hiding fundamental (and, ultimately, mundane) aspects of the narrator (in the case of Jack), proved to be both frustrating and annoying.more
I really liked this book, but I'm not sure that most people would. My suspicion is that you'd need a hook of some sort to get you far enough into it to be drawn in.If you are a gamer (computer, D&D, anything like that); if you are a technology fan, wondering where we'll go next; if you are fascinated by the implications of technology on society, then you'll probably enjoy this book. If you like a good spy novel/techno thriller, I strongly recommend you take the time to get into this book.Otherwise, I just don't know if this book will be worth it to you.I had a slow time getting started with my reading. It felt like the same issue I have getting into Jane Austen-- sometimes I can quickly slip into the language and the world, and sometimes it takes a while before the story flows. It certainly isn't that it is badly written, just that it is different from what I usually read. The book is told from 3 alternating POVs-- Sue (a police officer), Elaine (an accountant) & Jack (a game programmer). The reader learns about the characters in the book and the world the story is set in from their viewpoints. However, none of them know about the crime that occurs, and the secrets that are discovered, until they find out over the course of the book.Once the background is out of the way, the story really gets going, and it goes into full adventure mode, with chases, virtual battles, dangerous mistakes, giant leaps of logic, boy meets girl moments, and so on. I found Halting State fun and mentally stimulating.more
This book just didn't work for me. It's in second person, and switches between multiple perspectives. It is experimental. It may have worked for some readers, but for me, the experiment failed.more
The whole thing is written in second person perspective, and I just couldn't get into it for that reason.It might be a really good book, I just won't find out since I only struggled through the first couple of chaptersmore
Charlie Stross does what Charlie Stross does, this time in a semi dystopic Scotland wherein a bank robbery in a MMORPG sets on a chain of events leading to a Much Bigger Problem.A much better job of non standard scifi than is usually done, though some of the character interactions seem forced, and the second person point of view, while being an excellent tie in to gaming, takes some immersion before being natural.more
Really nice near future novel from Stross. Explores how virtual worlds will develop and in particular blur with the real world to provide augmented reality.The layered plot is also well formed with convincing characterisation and a fast pace that keeps you reading. A good solid light read, that unfortunately will probably date quite quickly.more
Great book that is done a disservice by its geeky plot blurb of "virtual robbery with orcs". I put a lot of faith in his Hugo nominations and am glad now that I did. Stross has an almost fanatical attention to detail when using technology in his stories that you can see just as easily being replaced by "tech" filler as with Star Trek (something Ron Moore talked about in a speech, and that Stross wrote a lengthy blog post about). This aids credibility and readability to his story, and makes his work feel a lot like a higher-tech William Gibson, a writer I really enjoy. I specifically liked the idea of LARP spy networks in the story. I don't know if he invented the idea, or just made it his own, but it worked great as a plot device.I thought the author's use of multiple viewpoints made the story jumpy, but generally worked well with the exception of the policewoman, who I felt was too far away from his other characters.more
While I love the near-future setting and the overly monitored world, I'm a little put off by the second-person narrative. While it ties in neatly with the MMOPRG suject matter, it is kind of jarring and gimmicky to read.more
A fun read, mad as usual for Stross. I'm amazed how natural it was to read a whole novel written in second person: I thought of it as a bit of gimmick when I heard about it, but actually it reads entirely smoothly.more
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