In a starred review, Publishers Weekly calls Hugo winner Charles Stross’ novel Halting State a “brilliantly conceived techno-crime thriller.”
The year is 2012, and China, India, and the United States are waging an infowar for economic domination. With innocent gamers mere pawns in the hands of electronic intelligence agencies, programmer Jack Reed is tasked with ferreting out the plot of those who would gladly trade global turmoil for personal gain.
©2007 Charles Stross (P)2010 Recorded Books, LLC
“The act of creation seems to come easily to Charles Stross... [He] is peerless at dreaming up devices that could conceivably exist in 6, 60, or 600 years.” (New York Times)
"This brilliantly conceived techno-crime thriller spreads a black humor frosting over the grim prospect of the year 2012, when China, India and the European System are struggling for world economic domination in an infowar, and the U.S. faces bankruptcy over its failing infrastructure....The effortless transformation of today's technological frustrations into tomorrow's nightmare realities is all too real for comfort. (Publishers Weekly)
Sci-fi, History, Police Procedurals and Science
I enjoy hard science fiction particularly when it comes in very long books or multiple book series -- with one or more of the following themes: modern space operas, complex storylines, detective or noir/cyberpunk overtones, cascading clever thoughts/dialogue and/or military. This has led me to works by Peter F. Hamilton (Void Trilogy, Greg Madel Series), Dan Simmons (Hyperion), Alastair Reynolds (Revelation Space Trilogy, Terminal World), Richard K. Morgan (Altered Carbon) and most recently Charles Stross.
Halting State and Rule 34 are a swirling, clever, funny and very complex pair of police procedurals done just enough into the future to look at the next big thing in social engineering, computing, communications and just about anything else you can imagine.
I initially found it hard to get into the three rotating storylines and the fact that the narration is, oddly, in the second person -- but it was worth the work to do so. If you start the read, stay with it. It is like a fantastic rollercoaster that is always running just a bit above your comprehension. Fun is made of corporate-speak, internet over-connection and geeks galore -- but at the bottom this is a rock solid procedural with a clever and appealing set of smart characters.
The initial mechanism of a bank robbery of a bank that exists only within an online game should not deter those who are not gaming fans....it is just a first step. The fun begins with the FANTASTIC Scottish dialect (and absolutely tremendous performance by the reader) and will sweep you away as the twists and turns look like a cross between HOMELAND and a LaCarre novel. I have moved these two book up to my top ten list -- and hope that we get a wee bit more in the future.
CS has unleashed a real winner with Halting State. Set in the near future, the author combines the worlds of online gaming and cyber-espionage with a unique multi-1st person narrative style. Both worlds are evolved in ways that are not only quite convincing, but also reveal a keen sense of where things are going. For example, the fact that online games develop a level of complexity that requires independent companies to manage ingame economic stability in order to maintain a level of "fun" by the participants rings true as outlined. What begins as an apparent farce, the robbery of an online game bank (in the gamespace) is slowly revealed to portend dramatic ramifications.
The characters are believable and engaging each in their own way. The twists and turns, along with the many surprises, both inside and outside the gaming world make for a riveting tale. Most near future sci-fi tends to minimally extrapolate current trends with sci-fi elements relegated to batman "utility belt" gimmicks; Halting State manages to leap ahead without leaving the reader behind and produces a world one can imagine existing in the next several years that is substantially different from our own, but still quite recognizable.
The narrator also deserves special kudos for pulling off a reading of a story set in Scotland where the accents are authentic, but easily understood and not overwhelming.
Dear Robert Ian MacKenzie, please do something else with your life. You are one of the worst narrators to have given it a shot...and kudos for trying, but unlike your friends, I will tell you the truth: you can't do this job.
Dear Charles Stross, you really need to take a deeper interest in the business of your life. You are a great writer, but you would have been better off reading this yourself. Your writing is buried here. Please get your books redone. Continuous rising intonation and surprise can not be used for story telling. It's funny in a surprising way for about three minutes.
A glorious story with deep truths about our world. Buy the paper or Kindle.
This turned out to be clever, satirical, well-plotted SF/techno-thriller. I'm glad I kept reading despite my difficulty in getting into the book at first. Stross has used three POV characters and each line is told in the second person, a POV I haven't seen much since my "choose your own adventure" days. Moreover, with it told from the second person as if you were three different characters, it is all the more disorienting as you leap from Elaine (a forensic accountant with a medieval battle reenactment hobby), to Sue (a tough-minded Scottish police sergeant), to Jack (an insecure, unemployed game programmer). It helps that you get to like all three characters and that Stross has a good eye for the humor in our technological present and future, and a definite fondness for gamers and everyone's desire to escape their reality. The story is a little convoluted, but it still mostly makes sense and is complex in a believable way. Perhaps the highest praise I can give was I really wanted to know what happened to some of the characters after the story ended. If you like William Gibson-esque tech, but want a little Vonnegut humor and flair, you could do worse than Halting State.
Overall, an interesting book -- great idea, but not very well written. I'm very into the cypherpunk/anarcho-capitalist core plot (although Daniel Suarez's Daemon/Freedom did a much better job of it), and the Scottish setting is interesting, but ironically since a lot of the plot centered around video games, the writing/characters seemed as thinly developed as most characters in video games. Not sure if the later books in the series are better; from what I've heard, Stross is a good author, so maybe read another of his books instead.
tough going at first (starts with 3 separate narratives), but came together nicely. Loved the Scottish flavor.
This book is really too dense to listen to. The performance complete w Scottish accents is excellent but does not make easier for a non native. Great story; Stross combines his knowledge of economics and IT to great effect, once again making us think differently about both.
This story is one of the oddest I've read on perspective. Second-person narrative with a rotating roster of who is in the fore makes fro a very strange read especially when it switches between 2 characters in the same scene and their inner dialogue paints a completely different situation.
That said the story is Stross at his best. Most of the characters feel really believable.
I've sold this book before as a game admin and a forensic accountant are working together but it somehow isn't boring.
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