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Halting State Paperback – 4 Sep 2008

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Halting State + Rule 34 + The Atrocity Archives: Book 1 in The Laundry Files
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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; paperback / softback edition (4 Sep 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841496650
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841496658
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 2.5 x 17.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 70,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Stross was born in Leeds, England, in 1964. He has worked as a pharmacist, software engineer and freelance journalist, but now writes full time.

Product Description


A great read, and a fascinating look at the future of security in a massively networked world. (Bruce Schneier, CTO, BT Counterpane)

The first couple of pages had me hooked, and I didn't touch another book until I finished it. (John Carmack, Technical Director, iD Software and creator of Doom and Quake)

As keenly observant of our emergent society as it is our emergent technologies, Halting State is one extremely smart species of fun. (William Gibson)

Charles Stross is the most spectacular science-fiction writer of recent years. In Halting State, he has written a near-future story that is at once over-the-top and compellingly believable. (Vernor Vinge)

Book Description

The theft of millions of pounds from an online game's bank means real world bloodshed in this compelling and timely thriller

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 4 Mar 2008
Format: Paperback
For those in the know of the MMORG this is probably a book that will make you not only laugh your socks off but scare the hell out of you at the same time. Not only have you spent hours/days/weeks building up your character and managed to grab those indispensable items but all of a sudden you find your character robbed blind and the items that you've so long horded stolen and sold on the open market? Only in fiction you say, well not really, its happened and on most auction sites you can find these little beauties available. You could even pay someone in China to build your character up for you.

What Charles does here is not only play on the paranoia but brings a great mystery up to date in a futuristic world where the worst can happen with everyday games taking over peoples lives in a counter intelligence operation built in cyberspace. Highly inventive, confusing and above all probably a scarily accurate possible future. An interesting take on the world from a man who perhaps not only understands it but could be one of the guys pushing us towards it in this highly addictive sci-fi novel where every character has a role to play in the bigger picture. You are no longer a person but a pixelization of the cyberworld trying to keep their space free. With espionage, counter terrorism, plotting, criminal activity and above all a tale that will keep you guessing from the first page to the last, this will be a book to recommend to all those computer addicted friends. How will you know if they've read it? Just look at the paranoid way in which they watch the computer out of the corner of their eyes as well as the haunted way that they just can't resist building their characters to even higher proportions.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 Sep 2008
Format: Paperback
Near the end of this book, one of the protagonists blurts, "They're tunelling TCP/IP over AD&D!" And that line is a very good test for potentials readers, because if you understand it (and why it's kind of funny), you might enjoy the book. If you're scratching your head, well, you might still enjoy the book, but you're certainly in for a whole lot more head scratching along the way.

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).
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER on 3 Feb 2008
Format: Paperback
Halting State has an interesting and topical subject for a science fiction novel - an interactive web-game has been hacked by an unknown organisation who have stolen all of the virtual weapons and spells from their holding bank. Although the "bank robbery" is virtual, it nevertheless has serious repercussions for the product and the company who have developed it, since it is evidently going to affect sales of the game. It's a brilliant idea and the story flies along with plenty of incident and invention, Stross having a great deal of fun with gaming culture and those wrapped up in its worlds, while realising at the same time that it is a serious business.

The writing is quite dazzling, sparkling with sarcasm and humour (although bafflingly and for no good reason it is rather annoyingly all written in second-person - "you go here, and you do this" etc.), but it does become a bit heavy with tech-speak and eventually start playing out like a virtual game itself. It's clearly the intention of the writer to start blurring the lines between the real world and the virtual, but you'd probably have to be a gamer yourself to fully appreciate all the references and clever playing out of the situation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JR Ward on 27 Aug 2009
Format: Paperback
The book is set in the not too distant future. Scotland has devolved, gained independence, and the world is even more saturated with information technology and computer nerdiness than ever before. In an online game a load of orcs and a dragon rob a bank and nick a load of magic swords and armour and amulets and other valuable goodies.

At first you'd probably agree with one of the protagonists in thinking `So what, it's a game' but in fact the theft spells almost certain doom for the computer company that hosts the bank in the virtual game. As in life now, these magical items go on sale for quite surprising money on auction sites. More importantly though, if people lose faith in the game a multi-million company can go down the toilet. These games are big money.

So that's the plot. The start of it at least. As the book goes on the stakes get increasingly higher as things develop. Western civilisation is at threat and people start to die. There are spies and assassinations and advanced technology and thrills aplenty.

The novel would score quite high on the nerd scale if there was such a thing. It is full of computer techno/gamespeak. I was ok with the game stuff like MMORPG but got a bit lost, and to be honest, mildly annoyed for the first couple of chapters with the sheer amount of `don't I know a lot of acronyms' and general geekness. Stross is doing this on purpose but it can be frustrating.

Another thing I thought might be annoying is the fact that it is told in the `stream of consciousness' style. In case you aren't familiar with this the story is told from multiple viewpoints - each chapter has a character's name and it is told by that person. It doesn't prove much of a problem here except occasionally for a Scots accent used by the police character.
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