Charlie Stross's latest novel Halting State starts out as a hilarious post-cyberpunk police procedural, turns into a gripping post-cyberpunk technothriller, and escalates into a Big Ideas book about the future of economics, virtual worlds, the nation state and policing, while managing to crack a string of geeky in-jokes, play off a heaping helping of gripping action scenes, and telling a pretty good love story.
Here's the gimmick: Halting State opens when a virtual bank in a distributed, multiplayer world is robbed by a horde of orcs who march in and clean it out of all its prestige items and other loot, a direct frontal assault on the game-economy's integrity. The losses run to millions, which triggers an insurance audit -- led by Elaine, who's not only a forensic accountant, but also a sword-swinging LARPer who likes her espionage alternate reality games. She contracts with Jack, an extraordinary gamespace hacker who's just been made redundant from his Edinburgh gaming company, to serve as her native guide, and finds herself working alongside of Sue, a lesbian mom detective-sergeant with the Edinburgh Polis who has been called to the scene with a report of a "robbery" and is now duty-bound to pursue the matter in compliance with the tenets set out in the ISO 9000 binder for police-stations.
I've been following Halting State since Charlie and I sat in a coffee shop in the Strand in London about five years ago and talked about a novel about a "multimillion dollar heist in gamespace." It's a sticky idea, and one that a lot of us are going to end up playing with over the years -- but it's also clearly one that Charlie has had an indecent amount of fun playing with. This is his tightest-plotted novel to date, a detective story with a million perfectly meshed moving parts, and a hundred magnificent surprises that had me gasping and shouting YES (to the general alarm of the guy in the next seat on my airplane).
This is the apotheosis of Stross -- a book chock-a-block with great ten-minutes-from-now technology (big hunks of the plot hinge on anonymized digicash, onion-routers, FreeNet crypto, and GNU Radio), RPG humor straight off Phil Foglio's old Dragon Magazine strip, and an impassioned series of valentines to Edinburgh, Charlie's adopted hometown.
Blend an Iain Banks thriller with a copy of Count Zero, throw in the Tokyo Games Show and a Bourne movie (and possibly a Bourne shell) and you've got something approximating Halting State. This is a book that will change the way you see the way the world works.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, the mind-expanding modus operandi of the counterculture spread into the realm of science, and shit got wonderfully weird. Neurophysiologist John Lilly tried to talk with dolphins. Physicist Peter Phillips launched a parapsychology lab at Washington University. Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill became an evangelist for space colonies. Groovy Science: Knowledge, […]
Timothy Ellis’ galaxy spanning space opera continues in Hero at the Gates! We’re 9 damn books in and the central plot is finally about to get past its prelude! I’ve really enjoyed this massive story. 9 novels ago Jon Hunter was a wet behind the ears kid on board his uncle’s space trader. Now he’s […]
Modern civilization has all but disappeared. It falls to a fearless, dedicated and slap-stick bunch known as Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors to help humanity recover. With help like this, you might be better off on your own! Benjamin Wallace’s first installment in the Duck and Cover series is a quick and witty read. We find America […]
The Avantree Powerhouse 4 Port Fast USB Charging Station brings high quality, high power, and still keeps your work space or home looking neat and organized. The best part about this charger is its capacity. It comes packing 4 USB charging sockets and a powerful 4.5A/22.5W output.. Its smartport technology means you don’t have to worry about frying your battery, either—it […]
With this comprehensive course in App & Game Development for iOS and Android, you’ll be able to take full advantage of this career opportunity without committing to going back to school full time. You’ll learn how to build immersive, interactive games and apps from start to finish using Python, C#, Unity, and HTML—some of the most in-demand programming […]
CloudPress is a responsive WordPress theme builder that allows you to create a whole site in less than 30 minutes. CloudPress comes with tools like pre-built headers, content blocks, and footers—all you have to do is pick what you like, and drag and drop. With your subscription, you get access to 13 professionally designed WordPress themes, over 80 […]