Thursday, June 14, 2007

Just Read: Halting State by Charles Stross

I'm still trying to catch up, so I expect this will be short. Also, Halting State doesn't publish until October, so I want to avoid anything spoiler-y. (On top of that, there's no cover here since I read it in galley form and I can't find a cover online.)

This is the book I've seen Stross describe as his "Mundane SF" novel -- it's set in the near future (2017), with no major changes between our world and theirs (no aliens or Singularity, no major breakthroughs, just smooth progress in all of the expected areas). It's also a thriller, set in Scotland, written in the multiple second person -- there are three viewpoint characters, and all of them are "you." (I was a little apprehensive about that, but it faded into the background for me very quickly.)

The book starts with the news of a major bank robbery inside a popular massively-multiplayer online game (which seem to be mostly played on mobile phones by this point). Stross quickly makes it clear he understands how the technical details work, and that a band of marauding Orcs grabbing piles of loot is about the least dangerous part of the whole crime. Our three viewpoint characters are a cop, a forensic accountant, and a programmer specializing in gaming, and they very quickly learn that they have fallen into the deep end.

It's a fine SFnal thriller, and the kind of bleeding-edge book that will probably read as mainstream in five years or so. Your James Patterson-reading friends might find it a bit too much to handle, but your John le Carre-reading friends are likely to love it.

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