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Halting State [Paperback]

Charles Stross
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

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Book Description

24 Jan 2008
It was called in as a robbery at Hayek Associates, an online game company. So you can imagine Sergeant Sue Smith's mood as she watches the video footage of the heist being carried out by a band of orcs and a dragon, and realises that the robbery from an online game company is actually a robbery from an online game. Just wonderful. Like she has nothing better to do. But online entertainment is big business, and when the bodies of real people start to show up, it's clear that this is anything but a game. For Sue, programmer Jack Reed, and forensic accountant Elaine Barnaby, the walls between the actual and the virtual are about to come crashing down. There is something very dangerous and very real going on at Hayek Associates, and those involved are playing for more than experience points. No cheats, no extra lives, no saving throw - make a wrong call on this one and it'll be more than game over.

Product details

  • Paperback: 335 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (24 Jan 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841496944
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841496948
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 926,346 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)

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

Book Description

Cutting edge SF and police procedural meet in Charles Stross's compelling and timely thriller.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "They're tunelling TCP/IP over AD&D!" 15 Sep 2008
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining futuristic Computer Mystery 4 Mar 2008
By Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Virtually brilliant 3 Feb 2008
By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great near-future romp 28 Aug 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Stross has written several times in his blog of the difficulties in writing near-future science fiction. By the time a book has meandered on its way through being written, edited, and published - a process that can take two or three years - it can be out of date as the real world catches up with the world and the gadgets that the author imagined, or wanders off in a direction that makes the author's imagined world inconceivable. In fact, that happened to Halting State's sequel, so badly that he had to throw it away and start again. And then nearly had to do it again.

In the four years since Halting State was published, the real world has indeed caught up in some respects. In particular there is now a thriving market in virtual goods from video games, and there really have been crimes committed - real world crimes - in video games. But it doesn't matter to the reader that this science fictional story isn't quite as science fictional as the author intended. Science fiction doesn't have to be about our future to be entertaining (Jules Verne is still a good read) or about wondrous technologies (Earth Abides has none), it's about modern (post-Enlightenment) people doing or creating plausible things and may explore the ramifications of technology and science (as does A Canticle for Leibowitz). Authors worry about their technologies and the characters' situations being novel because they don't want to appear - at the time of publication - to be incapable of coming up with new ideas, but readers should care mostly about whether the book is entertaining. And this one is. Stross rarely fails to deliver.

I only really have one nit to pick.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars great product
Quick delivery, great product thanks
Published 1 day ago by A
4.0 out of 5 stars Good tech-whodunit.
I've been a Charlie fan since reading Accelerando two years ago. Halting State is set in the very-near future, and tells a believable tale of surveillance, technology and law... Read more
Published 6 months ago by H Zheng
5.0 out of 5 stars Not to far away
Another great novel by Stross
A scenario that is possibly believable in the not to distant future
A good mix of futurism and a health dose of humour
Published 7 months ago by D. Carson
5.0 out of 5 stars a good holiday read by a smart writer
I'm writing this in July 2013 with the 20/20 hindsight the author could not have had. I enjoyed the book, it was a thought provoking read. Read more
Published 13 months ago by a nixon
4.0 out of 5 stars Tight Writing, Interesting Ideas
A bit confusing at times, but well written, with some good characters.
Don't be put off by some sniping reviews of Charles Stross - he's not Shakespeare, but he's a good,... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mark Rawsthorne
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally addicted to Stross
So, there I was in a bookshop, minding my own business, looking for something to read and I saw this book cover. Read more
Published 15 months ago by P. J. Coffey
4.0 out of 5 stars Halting state
Great read, enjoyable and hard to put down. Charles Stross created a fiction of a very realistic future Scotland k
Published 20 months ago by Lewis Whibley
5.0 out of 5 stars Halting State
....or more like suspended animation. Absolutely rivetted to my garden seat until it was too dark to read any longer- came inside put on the hall light still standing by the switch... Read more
Published 23 months ago by back2backreader
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and thought provoking
This took me back to my University days when I lived in a house full of gamers and live role players. The personalities are well observed and I was grinning as I recognised them! Read more
Published on 7 Jan 2012 by N. Percy
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining without being riveting.
Well this one's an odd one.

First of all this novel is set in a very unlikely place, a prosperous independent Socialist Scotland that is doing very well indeed thank... Read more
Published on 26 Dec 2011 by W. Black
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