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Halting State (Ace Science Fiction) Mass Market Paperback – June 24, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
It's a strange and unnerving coincidence I just read "Halting State" 11 years from the time the story takes place in 2018 and yes--in one sitting with my hair standing on end. I definitely think the world Stross is proposing is possible, perhaps even probable.
The plot---Edinburgh detective Sue is called out on a robbery case only to discover the victim is a corporation and the robbery took place inside a computer game. She's about to dismiss the case when she realizes the theft could have serious market implications.
Enter Elaine Barnaby, a forensic accountant for the firm's underwriter who's there to prove that the firm was somehow negligent so her employer doesn't have to pay the inevitable claims. She quickly realizes that her live action role playing (LARP) experience does not qualify her to examine a bank in a game world. Jack Reed, recently unemployed game programmer, is hired to serve as her decoder and native guide.
The three quickly discover the theft is just the beginning. The thieves' motivation could be anything from stock market manipulation to taking down the grid. The novel moves at a brisk pace with very little time for a breather in between events.
Stross deliberately challenged many of the writing conventions in "Halting State." First, the novel's written in second person--referring to characters as 'you.' Initially, the tense seemed accusatory and offputting; however, once I got into the plot of the book, 'you' became irrelevant.Read more ›
Most of the book can easily be comprehended by people who may not have a through knowledge of computers and networks, as is necessary for previous works by this author.
The story opens in the very near future in Edinburgh, where police sergeant Sue Smith is called in to investigate a bank robbery. But, guess what, no guns were pulled. No stick-up note. This was a robbery done in gamespace, online! Don't you love it?
This technothriller is a must-read for gamers. But it's also a wonderful romp for mystery lovers and people who like to read about computer crime and how we are losing our privacy to those who know and understand computers and networks and the cyberworld in general.
Reading this book may just make you a bit leary about those anonymous folks lurking in chat rooms and forums.
The story shows how multiplayer online games (MMORPGs) can be a tool used by governments and intelligence agencies to recruit useful idiots, unwary puppets to do the dirty work of infiltrating networks while they think they're just hacking around in a virtual gaming environment.
The novel follows three characters through twists and turns after a bank robbery is pulled of in a multi-player online game, a sort of World of Warcraft on steroids. But who are the bad guys? What do they want? Why rip off a virtual bank? And do we really care?
Stross does his usual good job of taking some interesting ideas(multiplayer game economics! reality overlays! cyber terrorist hi-jinks!) to their non-obvious conclusions. And this aspect is really fun, makes you think, gives you some "oho!" moments. But it's hard to get in gear with the story. First, the Scottish dialect and slang are nearly impenetrable. I bogged down several times, to the point where I wanted a heads-up display with instantaneous translation. "Two nations divided by a common language" is right -- if you're not a devoted Anglophile, be warned. And if you're not up on gaming concepts, or software development, you may be in for a similar problem. If you like Stross, you like dense text and new concepts that come thick and fast -- but this is at a whole new level.
I didn't have any problem with the second person POV. It's a great twist on Zork-style text adventure computer games ("You enter a web page with book reviews. You notice that readers either loved or hated this novel. You see links leading to other pages glowing an eerie blue."), and very readable in the context of this book.
The dense prose makes it hard to understand the nuances of what's going on, hard to get into the characters, and ultimately hard to care about the resolution.
I loved Accelerando, and other works that Stross has done. I think I'd like an annotated version of this one better.
When you strip everything away, this near-future thriller is a cautionary tale about network and database security, and what can happen as our lives become increasingly wired and digitized. The premise is that someone has hacked their way into a MMOG and pulled off an in-game heist, thus triggering the involvement of a police sergeant, an unemployed software engineer, and a forensic accountant. The three characters are called in to investigate this crime and the chapters alternate between their perspectives.
Note that they are not the narrators -- that's because the entire book is written in the second person, a choice which some readers will absolutely hate. I didn't find it as grating as many reviewers did, but it certainly doesn't help the rather weak characterization). Unfortunately, the plot is awfully heavy with techie jargon and those who aren't network engineers or software developers (as the author has been), may find it rocky going. Similarly, the plot revolves around MMOGs and ARGs, and if you're not familiar with this kind of computer and live action gaming, you might get a little lost. In both cases, there are lots of nuances and inside jokes which will fly right over your head (I think I got about half of them).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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. Read morePublished 14 days ago by S. Yates
Oh my god yes. This future is so plausible you can feel it bleeding through the present. And it's wrapped in a compelling story. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Simulation Fiction
Mr. Stross almost always has interesting ideas in his novels, but the amount of fun I have reading them varies. Read morePublished 3 months ago by M
The second-person viewpoints are a bit off-putting at first, but the characters grab you and the plot entangles.
Stross achieves an intriguing twist between cyber-crime and fantasy gaming.Published 14 months ago by Daniel Constant