four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
33-Mar-Apr-2008
user_rating: 
0

A-Halting StateThe world’s coastlines are underwater. China, India, and the European System are struggling for world domination. Millions of people spend their lives in a virtual-reality game world. It’s the year 2018, and Sergeant Sue Smith has just been called in to investigate a high-stakes bank robbery in the virtual world of Avalon Four. The owners of the gamespace, start-up Hayek Associates, stand to lose 26 million euros, a massive hit that will reverberate on the global stock exchange. Smith dives in to solve the crime, face marauding orcs, and match wits with insurance-adjustment agents and master hackers.
Ace Books. 351 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0441014984

Austin Amer-Statesman 4 of 5 Stars
"In Halting State, Stross postulates a secondary, usury economy feeding off the invested labor of millions of gamers. … Each successive complication of the conspiracy is a fresh and brilliant sci-fi conceit." Matthew Bey

BoingBoing.net 4 of 5 Stars
"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." Cory Doctorow

Sci Fi Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"This novel intends to carry SF’s core values of legitimately extrapolated cognitive estrangement as far as possible, at least in a near-future setting. And Stross succeeds eminently. By being intensely plugged in to the trends and state of the art of 2008 reality, Stross will create a world 10 years hence that stands as good a chance as any other extrapolation of becoming—or at least seeming for the duration of the ride—absolutely inescapable." Paul Di Fillippo

San Francisco Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Like Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, Halting State demands at least a passing familiarity with IT jargon, not to mention online gaming conventions. For those readers with impeccable geek credentials, Charles Stross offers a dizzying array of in-jokes and plenty of snazzy speculation about where total connectivity might be leading us." Michael Berry

SF Reviews.net 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Stross pulls out all stops as his thriller hits its thrilling stride, with red herrings and false leads drawing our confused heroes further and further down the rabbit hole, until it becomes clear that what’s really going on behind the scenes isn’t so much about mischievous gamers but most likely all about national security and some extraordinarily ambitious cyberterror." Thomas M. Wagner

Critical Summary

Reviewers expressed shock and awe at Charles Stross’s imagined future, because it’s just a bit too probable. Even his minor details, such as clothing with RFID tags that can speak to washing machines, are mind-bending. Overall, Halting State is a fast-paced, tightly plotted, and highly intelligent novel. While some of it may read as gibberish to a less in-the-know crowd (it’s helpful to know such gamer slang as "nerfed"), the tech-savvy will rejoice. One reviewer thought the plot became convoluted at the end with a too-neat resolution. But others, like Cory Doctorow in BoingBoing, commented, "This is a book that will change the way you see the way the world works."