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Halting State chapter 1 Halting State, meaning Halting State, genre Halting State, book cover Halting State, flies Halting State, Halting State 0be987e2d0b38 In The Year , Sergeant Sue Smith Of The Edinburgh Constabulary Is Called In On A Special Case A Daring Bank Robbery Has Taken Place At Hayek Associates A Dot Com Start Up Company That S Just Floated Onto The London Stock Exchange But This Crime May Be A Bit Beyond Smith S ExpertiseThe Prime Suspects Are A Band Of Marauding Orcs With A Dragon In Tow For Fire Support The Bank Is Located Within The Virtual Land Of Avalon Four, And The Robbery Was Supposed To Be Impossible When Word Gets Out, Hayek Associates And All Its Virtual Economies Are Going To Crash HardFor Smith, The Investigation Seems Pointless But The Deeper She Digs, The Bigger The Case Gets There Are Powerful Players Both Real And Pixilated Who Are Watching Her Every Move Because There Is Far At Stake Than Just Some Game Head S Fantasy Financial Security

10 thoughts on “Halting State

  1. says:

    Charles Stross decided it would be a good idea to write Halting State entirely in second person I briefly toyed with doing the same for my review, but then I remembered that I already did that, and it wasn t that amusing.Then I thought maybe I would do the whole thing in code like a l33t haXor, which would have been appropriate since this book finds it the height of amusement to throw around with it language like n00b and pwned Then I realized that it is obnoxious to force readers to suffer an affected writing style or stylistic quirk unless you have a really good reason, and because it s cute and mildly thematically relevant is not a good enough reason, are you listening, Charles Stross I did not like this book, perhaps because it is about the online gaming community, by which I mean obsessives who spend way too much time playing World of Warcraft, and my idea of a video game binge still tends toward playing through all of Super Mario World in one night Maybe if you play Everquest enough to think it is funny to call it Evercrack do people still play EverQuest , then this book is a hilarious romp of in jokes and references.If you do not, though, it is a dull, unimaginative slice of near future sci fi that was quite possibly dated before the manuscript was fully edited Near future stuff is tough because if you predict wrong, you just look silly where are the intergalactic army brigades of 1997, Joe Haldeman Stross plays it safe by predicting almost nothing In 202X, we ll all still be playing online games with fantasy themed avatars and using the same tired netspeak The only difference is we will use VR goggles the future of 1994 and the U.K will have collapsed also the U.S economy, oh, daring Everyone will be a gamer, to the point where a virtual crime committed inside of a game could have global economic effects to the tune of billions of Euros Possibly I admit I didn t quite follow all of it.But basically, it goes like this crime is committed inside a video game when a bunch of in game objects spells, swords, treasure are stolen Cops and insurance companies get involved and investigate Larger conspiracies unfold It almost sounds interesting But then the first 2 3 are all about setting up the gaming culture, describing avatars, going off on tangents about how you ll be able to check Yelp reviews in the future using a virtual in glasses display no, really, there is a long bit about looking up a good restaurant online , and poorly developing a cast of four stock point of view characters via the aforementioned unwise decision to write entirely in second person I guess because YOU are the character in this video game obsessed narrative And to clarify that means that the you you are reading about is referencing four samey characters, which can make it hard to remember who you are at any given time, even though the chapter titles tell you which character is featured Only in the last part are the real stakes revealed, if by revealed you mean explained via a series of confusing expository conversations The worst are the action sequences set inside a game, which clearly have absolutely no real world impact and are thus about as interesting as watching your nerdy cousin play X Box Game over No continues.

  2. says:

    1 to the list of notable books written in second person, which is only slightly longer than the list of notable books written solely to criticize them Halting State has a cool premise I mean, aside from the fact that it was dated by the time it came out goggles, really That s your immersion technology I mean, we ve gotten to the point where we can read your mind But hey, if you wanna strap a small TV to your face instead, whatever Let s ignore specifics about Halting State for a minute, because like most people I was delighted to see nerdy nomenclature littering its pages And kudos to Charles Stross who, despite the certainty that he s never gone beyond noob level on any game whatsoever, writes a decent characterization of someone who has Let s look instead at how thoroughly idiotic it is to write in second person Some of you probably tried to ignore this fact as a function of your open mindedness The funniest side effect of second person narrative is that the reader will continuously forget the protagonist s name What could have been a name or a pronoun or the stranger or the warrior becomes a banal you Version 1 The shadows shifted and a figure stepped out What the began the guard as an arrow struck him in the face.Version 2 You step out of the shadows What the begins the guard as your arrow strikes him in the face.The second version doesn t sound too bad, right Now imagine being stuck in that point of view for an entire book You cannot zoom, or pan, or examine a scene or character from another angle It s as though a movie like Inception were shot entirely from Leonardo DiCaprio s perspective, a camera literally strapped to his forehead for every scene without so much as a fancy lens Now you re getting the limiting factor of second person Inception would still have been a good movie, don t get me wrong but it would have been nothing compared to the effect of panning the view at just the right moment, the right angle to to let you see something that perhaps the main character cannot, or to show you someone else, etc.Scenes like this would be impossible Only first person perspective would be allowed You d never know what the main character looked like, or what other people were seeing or feeling or smelling You wouldn t even know what s going on outside your immediate POV It makes for a very dull story.

  3. says:

    My Review in 50 Words or LessWritten in 2007, what you ll get if you read this is a smart, savvy novel unsettlingly prescient about where we may be going Plus there s a decently plotted story to boot Just get over that second person narrative hump The More than 50 Words Version The Second Person Narrative Is There Something to It Mary s been nagging you about your heart ever since that stupid DNA check you both took last year so the wee wun kens his maws ur both gawn tae be aboot for a whiule , and the way she goes on, you d think refined sugar was laced with prussic acid.If that writing is like nails on a chalk board for you both the second person POV and the Scottish dialect then you definitely want to stay away from this work Myself, I stopped noticing it after 30 pages or so The narrative always in the second person cycles between the perspectives of three different characters Sue, Elaine, and Jack in a rigid unvarying sequence For me, the second person narrative achieved an interesting mid point between the intimacy of the first person and the objective, authorial omnipotence of the third person Take this extract for example again, we re with Sue, the police officer investigating the case Marcus Hackman s office is all done up in chrome and black like an eighties bachelor pad Mary has a thing for design magazines, and you recognise the Eames chair and lounger, and you ll swear you ve seen that desk somewhere famous One wall is cluttered with photographs and certificates and the sort of shit the terminally insecure use to reassure themselves that they really matter or maybe it s what aggressive office sociopaths use to browbeat the terminally insecure into thinking that they really matter The shark bares his teeth at you in a not too cannibalistic manner I can spare you five minutes Let s take the sentence The shark bares his teeth at you in a not too cannibalistic manner Written in the first person, the POV becomes purely subjective The share bares his teeth at me in a not too cannibalistic manner Is it all just in Sue s imagination The sentence becomes as much about Sue as it is about Marcus Hackman Written in the third person person, it s less immediate, and also clunkier The shark bares his teeth at Sue in a manner that she found not too cannibalistic We also get a divorce between the objectivity of the impression of shark given by the third party POV and the subjectivity of describing Sue s reaction The second person POV situates the reader nicely and, in my view, elegantly in between the personal subjectivity of the intimate and the arms length distancing of the objective The Near Future Just Five Minutes AwayThis mid distance achieved by the second person POV is a neat reflection of the near future oddness of the novel just close enough to the present to be familiar, and just far away enough to be alien Take the very first quotation that opened this review and the oh so casual reference to a lesbian couple with a child While it might be less unusual now in 2012, when written in 2007, it would have been just unusual enough as an idea to be exotic Here s Sue again using her internet goggles By beaming visuals directly onto her retina, she gets an overlay on the scene in front of her with information from the police database CopSpace sheds some light on matters, of course Blink and it descends in its full glory Here s the spiralling red diamond of a couple of ASBO cases on the footpath There s the green tree of signs sprouting over the doorway of number thirty nine, each tag naming the legal tenants of a different flat Get your dispatcher to drop you a ticket, and the signs open up to give you their full police and social services case files, where applicable This is the twenty first century, and all the tetrabytes of CopSpace have exploded out of the dusty manila files and into the real world, sprayed across it in a Technicolour mass of officious labelling and crime notices.The connectedness and ubiquity of access to the internet was just about beginning in 2007 when Charles Stross wrote this Internet glasses are currently being developed by Google But the interesting, and just about too scarily plausible next step, is the labelling and retrieval of information on people based on face recognition technology and cross referencing a range of databases in real time for instant reference It s the whole soci0 economic and cultural effect of such steps in where we currently are to where we might well be in the next decade that makes the future of this novel so intriguingly compelling The Crime Thriller that Morphs into Something ElseThe story starts with a crime committed in a MMORPG, one of hundreds administered by Hayek Associates in a world where people willingly pay cash to buy in game products This, by the way, has already started, but imagine what happens when the in game economy gets much larger than it is now How would real world economics then play into in game economics, and how might in game theft then translate into real world cash This isn t even really the future any, what with the North Korean government using gamers to hack online games to farm gold to sell for cold hard cash, and with gold farming becoming a veritable industry in developing countries So, the story starts with a crime that our three hapless heros get involved in investigating, but it rapidly spins into something bigger In this near future, everything is hooked up to the internet, everything is connected It s not just your phone or your PC It s your oven, your car, the traffic system, the electrical grid, government servers The virtual world bleeds into the real world, and to keep the virtual economy safe, Hayek Associates essentially provides a service as a virtual Federal Reserve bank, keeping the in game economy stable That kind of service requires high level encryption, and the entire economic backbone of the hundreds of in game systems are run off the encryption keys that are used across the European Union for its internet systems So imagine what happens if that key is sold or stolen.We re not far off from that future In fact, it s just around the corner there s a nifty riff in this pre 2008 novel about greed and the use of certain derivatives that results in real world chaos And in the world of geopolitics, we ve recently had the infection of Iran s nuclear fission centrifuges by the Stuxnet virus thought to have been created by the Israelis And when in 2008, when Russia attacked Georgia, in order to degrade the effectiveness of Georgia s national response, the Russians included a cyberattack that disabled dozens of important Georgian websites, including those of the country s president and defense minister, as well as the National Bank of Georgia and major news outlets The book has the fun crazy energy of sitting around shooting the breeze with a bunch of friends, getting drunk and uproarious, and just speculating about what tomorrow might be like It also just sober enough a look at a tomorrow that looks just enough like today to be interesting and very worrying.

  4. says:

    This was a delight to read The story is set in independent Scotland in 2018 Everyone has direct and constant access to the web through their glasses and walk around in a constant twitch as they hammer away on virtual keyboards Hayek Associates, a small start up gaming company, has discovered their software has been infiltrated and the virtual bank they oversee has been robbed by a band of orcs and a dragon Sergeant Sue Smith is first on this bewildering crime scene Next to come along is Elaine, a sword wielding forensic accountant She realizes she needs some additional help and has her current employer hire Jack, an unemployed gaming programer, to train her in the nuances of game space The chapters alternate between the three characters POV in second person This workedand it didn t You would be reading from Jack s POV, chapter changes, POV changes, but it would take a couple pages to shift into the new character mentally Personally, I liked Jack s character, especially his constant reference to his mummy lobe This was his overdeveloped sub conscious that would cause him to blurt out things, be ultra honest and do the right thing Another aspect I really enjoyed was Sergeant Smith s CopSpace capability The police force had a overlay feature that could be dropped down on reality and allow them to see crime as it is happening, assess how honest people are answering questions, and access all sorts of files while out on the beat Super cool Stross does throw a lot of gaming and computer abbreviations at the reader, and sometimes that got to be a bit much since I am neither a gamer or a graphic information specialist The story is fast paced and does throw a lot at the reader, and for once, I did not guess the ending ahead of time This was as good as or better than Glasshouse Check it out

  5. says:

    Halting State by Charles Stross was the last book on my 2008 Hugo Nominees List While I still think Brasyl by Ian McDonald should have won instead of The Yiddish Policemen s Union by Michael Chabon, I do think this comes in a very, very close second.I was pleasantly surprised by Halting State I read Accelerando by the same author last year and absolutely loathed it Halting State really grabbed me and I read huge chunks at a time I was amazed at how Stoss managed to maintain a second person present tense narration throughout the book It was a bit jarring at first because it is so unusual, but it didn t take long to get used to it Once characters started interacting and there was some dialogue going on, the unusual syntax was barely noticeable Halting State was confusing at times as the real world and the virtual world merged and collided However, it never once stopped being fascinating It was an action thriller set ten years in the future in a world that is very, very different from what it is today As different as it is, it s plausible based on today s technology While I never warmed to the character of police officer Sue, I did like Jack and Elaine a lot I m still not sure if I really know what happened in this story, but that s okay It was an exciting ride.

  6. says:

    This is a quote from Cory Doctorow s Little Brother about X Net The best part of this is how it made me feel in control My technology was working for me, serving me, protecting me It wasn t spying on me This is why I loved technology if you used it right it could give you power and privacy This is a quote from Charles Stross Halting State about BlackNet At the protocol level, it s an anonymous peer to peer currency system It asks you to do favors, it does you favors Like, be in front of a building with a running motor at such a time with the back doors open, and drive to an address where someone ll be waiting for you with a wallet full of cash and another stolen car At least, that s the innocent sounding version, because, let s face it, burglary and criminal damage go together like love and marriage, or robbery and a get away carriage and most of the stuff blacknets get used for starts there and gets worse real fast None of the perps know each other, because it s all done with zero knowledge proofs and anonymous remixers running out of zombie servers on some poor victim s home entertainment system that s downloaded one piece of X rated malware too many And THAT is the difference between Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow Doctorow sees free anonymous internet access as freedom and power, and a civic right Stross sees it as a network for criminals Doctorow s assumption is that hackers and kids will always be smarter and agile than Governments, and therefore will always be one step ahead with regard to using technology Stross assumes that Governments are all seeing, all powerful and always on top of the tech And THIS is why I prefer Cory Doctorow.Other reasons I didn t love this book. view spoiler It s the morning after the first time this girl sleeps with this guy They ve being bugged, spied on, stabbed and narrowly avoided being kidnapped A small girl has apparently been abducted, and an army of unsuspecting gamers are being used as international operatives against the entire western world Here s what SHE s thinking What No cuddling You unromantic bastard Seriously That second one is an ACTUAL quote At that point, I decided the writer probably had a lot experience with coding than coitus The other female protagonist goes from being a casually racist, stereotypical, dim witted copper to someone who has deep insight into hedge funds and dot com bubble investment tactics, with no discernible transition in between Second person perspective I hate being told what I just did and what I was thinking at the time by somebody I ve never met Random Irvine Welshesque lapses into phonetic Scottish accents for no obvious reason Actually there was apparently a reason, just not a very believable one, and it was only given at about the 98% mark, making it too little too late hide spoiler

  7. says:

    This book has several interesting and unusual attributes Overall it s a fun read in the vein of Pat Cadigan s Synners, about hackers and suits working together to handle a threat to technology society has evolved to assume Like Synners it throws you into the world head first without explaining names, acronyms, slang, or the numerous in jokes unlike Synners it focuses on the espionage story and leaves the sociological theorizing out.The plot revolves around a multi million dollar bank heist We follow an insurance investigator, her hired computer consultant, and a local cop assigned to the case The catch the bank was inside an online game Items in online games have real world value, but how to track, charge, prosecute, and assess the insurance liability is entirely unclear Stross 2018 society is a just over the horizon extrapolation of our own Familiar names Google, Microsoft Office, ADD and parodies of familiar names Web 3.14 abound As usual, Cringeley s law applies people tend to overestimate change in the short term but underestimate it in the long term Stross has accelerated social acceptance of, reliance on, and affordable access to database mashups, smart cars, flexible work life balance, telecommuting, pervasive computing, online gaming as intentional community, and other causes popular with the so called Web 2.0 crowd The book, set in a Scotland gone hyper technical but still balanced between Presbeterian and Socialist heritage, also makes some interesting and, again, too quick extrapolations about American versus EU infrastructure and pan European cooperation It s no wonder the first review I saw of this was Corey Doctorow s adoring recommendation on Boing Boing.Stross makes the interesting the choice to write the book in the rare and rarely successful second person present This is usually used by amateur hack writers doing action or porn to give a sense of being in the action which it doesn t In this case it works well because the viewpoint character changes with each chapter it gives a sense of the reader becoming a different character, mirroring the character and role hopping going on in the game playing and the identity hopping that unfolds as the investigation proceeds The story starts as a detective story, and I was all settled in and looking forward to it However, the scale keeps escalating, from the criminal stage to the corporate, the national, the international, and finally to global socioeconomic ramifications, turning the back half of the book into a spy story than a detective one, with all of the feints, sudden murder attempts, suddenly revealed secret backstories, and take it on faith explanations as to why things matter that spy stories entail I don t mind spy stories, but it is a bit of a bait and switch Possibly because it was a spy story and not a whodunnit, the end felt a little off to me We catch the bad guy from the espionage but the actual robbery in the beginning is left mostly aside None of the type of actual investigation we prepared for turns out necessary and the skills the characters thought they were bringing to the table weren t those they used I felt a little let down, but enjoyed it enough anyway In particular we build up a lot of expectation around a secret one character is hiding and keeps almost confessing when it comes out it s a complete waste of tension.I want Stross to remove the word sniffs from his spell checker Almost every page someone sniffs in response to something it s a meaningless tag used to indicate reacted without telling us how and it was used so often it became intrusive.Other than those peeves, it s a fun book It s a great one to play spot the reference give me a cookie, a maze of twisty mirrors, all alike, warchalk a reference to the game Assassin and the lore surrounding it, etc there are hundreds throughout the book.

  8. says:

    Okay plot, although Stross thinks he s being innovative than he really is The idea of people thinking they re playing war games, only to find out it s real, has been done many times Ender s Game for one, and lots of movies from the 1980 s The main characters appealing, but undeveloped Also, I know I m fighting a losing battle here, but the word librarian describes a profession It does not mean nerdy, intellectual, sexually repressed, insecure, spinsters I hate to smash your daydreams, guys, but some librarians are soccer moms Some librarians already have boyfriends Some librarians are men I did like Stross ideas about what a highly electronically connected world will look like, and how handicapped everyone will when they have to turn it all off That, and a forlorn hope that I would eventually grasp all of the plot, kept me going to the end of the book.

  9. says:

    It s hard to write what I want to about this book without giving away a lot about the plot and the tricks that Stross has up his sleeve I m going to go ahead and talk about it regardless, but if you re worried about broad spoilers nothing too specific, I promise , this might not be the review for you.Note The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  10. says:

    This was a bit of a challenging read due to its multiple second person narrators which you am I now and varying amounts of Scottish idiom when did ned become an adjective Then of course there is the matter of crimes being committed inside a MMOG and the in depth look from both the player and the developer points of view along with their accompanying exposition learning curves.The difficulty is most pronounced in the beginning of the book, but things do get clearer after a while And then you start to see the fascinating mashup of ideas economic warfare, crowdsourced espionage, digital dependence, and augmented reality as a serious business tool.By the end you don t notice the odd structure any , you re just eager to find out how they are going to save the day.

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