Opening chapters of Charlie Stross's "Halting State"

Charlie Stross has just posted the prologue and first three chapters of his kick-ass heist novel about a robbery in a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, "Halting State":
"I'd just come out of the post-IPO debrief meeting with Marcus and Barry, they're our CEO and CTO. We were in a three-way conference call with our VC's investment liaison team and our counsel down south when Linda called me out -- she's in derivatives and border controls -- because there was something flaky going down in one of the realms we manage for Kensu International. It's in the prestige level central bank for Avalon Four. There was a guild of Orcs -- in a no PvP area -- and a goddamn dragon, and they cleaned out the bank. So we figured we'd call you."

The elevator stops and you stare at Wayne Richardson, Marketing Director, in mild disbelief. The jargon can wait for later, that's what your interview log is for: but one name in particular rings a bell because Mary says Davey's been pestering her for an account. "Avalon Four? Isnae that a game?"

He swallows and nods. "It's our main cash cow." The doors slide open on an underground corridor. The roof is ribbed with huge concrete beams painted in thick splashes of institutional cream, and it's startlingly cold. There are bleached pine doors on either side, a cable duct winding overhead, and posters on the walls that say CARELESS LIPS SINK SHIPS. For a moment you wonder if you've blundered into some kind of live action role playing thing, a cold war re-enactment maybe: but just then your phone chimes at you that it's gone offline.


See also: Charlie Stross's Halting State: Heist novel about an MMORPG


  1. I bought and read this book, based on the glowing reviews it’s gotten. I really didn’t like it at all and those reviews left a bad taste in my mouth. I should have waited for these pages to be released before plunking my money down. Sure reading in the third person is distracting but I was OK with it because I got the feeling he wanted it to read like an interactive fiction adventure. What killed the book for me were those crazy long sentences of techno babble. It isn’t that they’re not grammatically correct (I can’t tell), but on pages 204-205 when you read a 107 word sentence followed by a 73 words sentence, the 37 word sentence that comes next feels short. I also didn’t like the whale size red herrings and minor characters you can’t tell apart from one another.

    Not a horrible book, but Stross has written much better books than this. It’s been way over hyped. There were some interesting thoughts in it, some great lines, and I do like Stross as an author. I would recommend waiting for the paperback or the creative commons version to be sure first.

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