Halting State Paperback – 24 Jan 2008
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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)
Cutting edge SF and police procedural meet in Charles Stross's compelling and timely thriller.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
A must read book with hilarious dead pan plot delivery and a cracking script
I read it in a plane to Rome and laughed out loud so much my husband told me yo be quiet.
Get this book.
You won't be disappointed
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.
If you are that sort of person there's lots here to enjoy - humour, drama and a plausible near-future world which, courtesy of Google Glass and Google Cardboard, has aged very well. The march of technology since Halting State came out has made the world it paints more plausible rather than giving it the fate of many old versions of the future, that of looking amusingly antiquated.
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). Finally, if the second person voice, techie and gaming jargon don't put you off, there's also a bit of Scots dialect to decipher (I didn't have a problem with it, but other readers seemed to really struggle with it.).
Probably the best thing about the book is the setting (Scotland, circa 2018) and the author's projection of how technology might have evolved over the last decade in ways that affect us all. It's very plausible and convincing -- which makes the story that much more interesting when it all goes pear-shaped. And when it does start to go wrong, the scale shifts from contained crime to all-out infowar, complete with international hacker crews and EU black ops squads. While I could see the point being made by such a shift in scale (a country, even an superpower, totally destabilized via hacking/infowar), it also moved the book into conventional disaster/thriller turf, which I'm not a huge fan of.
I'm a very occasional reader of science fiction, and I prefer my sci-fi to be immersive and contained. The first half of this book does a good job of setting up near-future Scotland and how society might be slightly different, but as it went on and the techspeak got more and more complex, and the stakes went through the roof, I found myself less and less engaged. To be fair, I am neither an online gamer, nor a computer techie, but I have plenty of friends who are, and I think they might find it a little bit more fun of a read than I did.
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