Halting State (Halting State, #1)

By Charles Stross

Rating: 4 stars

It’s the very near future and Sergeant Sue Smith has been called in to deal with a bank robbery. Except there’s a problem: neither the bank nor the items stolen from it actually exist, but are constructs in a multiplayer online roleplaying game. Soon, though, real dead bodies start popping up and it appears that nothing is as it seems.

I really enjoyed most of this book, although it does have some oddities, primarily to do with its structure. The book is told entirely in the second person (so it’s always you who are doing the action) with three protagonists, taking it chapter about. It takes a while to figure it out, but it works oddly well. It probably helps that there’s a bit of a roleplaying tone to the book which is appropriate to a book about roleplaying…

I loved the near-future Scottish (mostly Edinburgh with a trip to Glasgow) post-independence setting with some really funky technology. Apart from the quantum processor and the augmented-reality glasses, there’s nothing here that isn’t a direct line from where we are at the moment, from the police life-recorders that record everything they see to location-based services on your phone to help you find the closest wine-bar!

The only real problem I had with the book was the slightly rushed and clunky feel to the ending. I had enjoyed the build-up, with a high-level uber-geek being brought in by the auditors to help figure out how the cryptographic hashes that represented the items in the game had been stolen but it ended up in a very different, much wider-scale, place and although I think it worked, there was a little too much infodumping towards the end, to help the reader keep up with what was going on.

Book details

ISBN: 9781841496658
Publisher: Orbit
Year of publication: 2007

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