I just finished Halting State by Charles Stross.
This was a very cool near future thriller, with elements of gaming, corporate skullduggery, crime and espionage. Plus some sword work. Like most of Stross' work, this thing is dripping with cool ideas and actually makes me curious about online gaming - or at least the management, care and feeding of said entities.
There are three viewpoint characters: Sergeant Sue Smith of the Edinburgh Polis - and frequently the voice of reality; Elaine Barnaby, forensic accountant, auditor and amateur swordswoman and Jack Reed, geek, gamer, programmer and hacker. The book opens with a recruiting e-mail, moves on to an impossible bank robbery in a MMORPG and then begins to get seriously twisted and entertaining from there.
I liked it and I'm going to read it again. Also its nearest cousin, Rainbows End once I get the opportunity. My only suggestion would be the addition of a cast of characters and a list of abbreviations and unfamiliar terminology.
If you like neat ideas, an interesting plot and some decent characters, plus overlays of the police procedural and espionage novel, then look into Halting State.
Christ, I hope I don't sound like Klausner.
Do you play a MMORPG?
Do you write computer code?
Do you work with the police?
Do you enjoy futuristic thrillers?
Would you like to read a book written in the 2nd person?
Are you Scottish?
If you answered 'yes' to two or more of the above, you're going to love this book!
It's a detective thrill ride through a future Edinburgh and the servers that host a number of online games.
Switching back and forth between the three main voices is much like jumping from tank to caster to healer. If you like role-playing games, you'll be able to envelop yourself in the perspective from the second person narrative.
What a fascinating book this was!
As a quick summary, this is a near-future electronic crime mystery more than a scifi novel, but it's still a blast to read. There's distributed computing, cryptography, games that are effectively MMORPGs, and Alternate Reality Games thrown in the mix. I'm actually employed in the games industry, so I know a lot of the buzzwords used here, but even so I was looking up stuff on wikipedia to gain a little bit of background on the topics Stross brings up.
The book is narrated in second-person, alternating between three different "you"s. Initially, this was hard to get used to, but that's overcome without too much trouble, and it feels like an homage to all the old Infocom text adventure games... "You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here."
Toward the end of the book, more and more characters get involved in the storyline, and it began to get difficult to tell who was who. I kept feeling like I should have made a list of characters to refer to. And the final "battle" was sort of pulled out of thin air, making the finish a little let down, though other elements of the conclusion were fascinating.
Overall, this was a great read. It's got a William Gibson cyber-civiliztion feel about it, but hosted in the world of only a decade into the future, so the tech used to get there is actually understandable, and very much conceivable, rather than the mystical hand waving Gibson had to use 25 years ago. The book has its confusing spots, and I do worry about what non-techie-types will think of all the techno-babble, but Stross is someone I'll come back to.
In Halting State, Charles Stross delivers a story filled with fascinating near-future scenarios that are so plausible the reader's mind is ignited by the possibilities. The focus is on three characters, all of which are believable and likable. Stross makes an interesting narrative choice, telling the entire story in second person, and he does it so well that in retrospect, it just blends right into the story. He could use some help with the plot-twisty stuff and the ending was a tiny bit flat or I would have given the book 4 1/2 rather than 4 stars. If you like sci-fi, read Halting State.