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Halting State (Halting State #1)

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3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  7,482 ratings  ·  653 reviews
In the year 2018, 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 startup company that's just been floated on the London stock exchange. The suspects are a band of marauding orcs, with a dragon in tow for fire support, and the bank is located within the virtual reality lan ...more
Hardcover, 351 pages
Published October 2nd 2007 by Ace Hardcover (first published October 1st 2007)
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Best Science Fiction of the 21st Century
112th out of 321 books — 2,994 voters
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Best of Cyberpunk
35th out of 206 books — 787 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Joel
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
...more
Simeon
+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,
...more
Whitaker
My Review in 50 Words or Less

Written 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 whiul
...more
Kristin
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 E ...more
Jay Kristoff
You wonder why the author chose to write this book in second person PoV, when that writing mode is traditionally reserved for Choose Your own Adventure books and that odd shade of pornography where the camera is strapped to the pilot's head, all grunting into the camera-mounted mic and whatnot.

Then you the wonder why the author chose to write this book in second person PoV and include MULTIPLE CHARACTER POINTS OF VIEW.

You flail around for a few chapters, trying to wrap your brainmeats around th
...more
Sandi
"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 sec
...more
Janet
Okay plot, although Stross thinks he's being more 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 daydre ...more
Guy
Just when you think you've read everything worth reading and that there's nothing new under the sun, just when you are feeling really jaded, that's when books like this one (and Michael Flynn's "January Dancer", and Peter Watts' "Blindsight") come along and remind you why you love science fiction and fantasy.

Set in the near future, using technology that either exists already or is on the drawing board now, Stross creates a world that is at the same time almost alien and yet recognizably our tomo
...more
Seth
Oct 16, 2007 Seth rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: the cyber/phreak/hacker crowd, action/thriller sf fans
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.
...more
Tricia
May 26, 2008 Tricia rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people with patience and definitely people in the gaming industry or just into games in general
Shelves: 2008
Another from my list of books in second person. I found it extremely hard to get into this at first. The second person present perspective plus the head jumping into different characters felt very awkward, and I really wasn't at all sure where the story was going, so I was reluctant to dive in. About a third of the way through, I finally grokked where it was trying to go and I leapt in, reading the rest of the book at a faster pace and really enjoying the characters. It's rare in a book with mul ...more
Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]
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
...more
Brownbetty
Jan 07, 2009 Brownbetty marked it as abandoned-unfinished
Every once in a while I get the idea I'm not reading brainy enough SF, and that all the other SF readers will sneer at me for not reading enough Hugo winners. Halting State hasn't won a Hugo, but it says "Hugo Award-winning author of" on the front, so it probably count for half points.

Sue Smith is a tough, no-nonsense cop who takes occasional flack for being the only out lesbian in her department. And that was the last time the book gave me something I liked.

The entire book (well, let me be hone
...more
Robert
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jenne
I'd really like to give this three and a half stars. It was pretty cute, and the idea of the real-life spy game was neat.

As many others have noted, Stross has a fondness for enormous chunks of exposition, but I guess it doesn't bother me as much. I like learning about stuff, as long as it's interesting stuff.

I'm taking off points for:
--intermittent use of annoying Scottish dialect
--constantly referring to an accountant as a "librarian" because she's...nerdy? dunno.
--rather perfunctory characte
...more
Ben Babcock
There is a new buzzword making the rounds these days: gamification. It refers to the trend of turning quotidian tasks into games. Usually the end goal of the game maker is profit, of course, but often gamification has benefits for the players—it turns an otherwise boring or dull task into something fun. CBC’s Spark has explored gamification. They’ve also interviewed Jane McGonigal, who has some interesting ideas about how gaming is changing our society. (She also has a book I intend to read but ...more
Jonathan
I had a good time with this book. It is near future with only a thin layer of speculation. If you can buy that Google Glass like technology will exist and function okay-ish in the next 5 years, then you need not make any further speculative leaps to buy what this book is selling. I was worried I was in for another book where half of the story is set inside of a computer fantasy land, but it actually remains more or less grounded in the real world with only the occasional jaunt off into the realm ...more
James
The first, and eponymous, novel in the Halting State series – Charles Stross's stories set in a slightly futuristic Edinburgh. Scotland is now an independent European state; the Police wear augmented reality glasses connected up to CopSpace; and a gang of Orcs have robbed a bank. A bank in a computer game. Think World of Warcraft (I assume, although I have seen the adverts), and a bunch of Orcs stealing game items from the safety deposit boxes in the game. Obviously, like now, these in-game item ...more
Kolya Matteo
You didn't like this book as much as the other Stross you've read. Perhaps the second-person narration is the problem: you don't like being told how you feel, particularly when your motivations are as inane or stupid as these characters' seem to be. You're not sure whether Sergeant Sue Smith actually accomplished anything in the whole book, and the other two characters who you get to be are told that they're important, but don't seem to justify it. The characters run around reacting to "thrillin ...more
Ed
Aug 22, 2014 Ed rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Ed by: Koji Mukai
This was a really fun book to read. Even though it took me 7 months to read it, I hated to put it down whenever I got the rare chance to read it. If you liked the cyberpunk novels of William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, then you should give this novel a try. Halting State takes place in a nearer future than Neuromancer, where MMORPGs (a la "World of Warcraft") and ARGs (augmented reality games) are all the rage. Charles Stross's prose flows very nicely, and he was a programmer at DataCash back in ...more
Ben Thurley
Halting State is a fun, near-future, cyber-crime, espionage thriller which kicks off with reports of a robbery at Hayek Associates, an online game company. The heist, viewed on screen, seems to have been executed by a band of orcs and a dragon and the bank only exists in an online game.

World weary Scottish plod, Sergeant Sue Smith, programmer Jack Reed and forensic accountant Elaine Barnaby soon find themselves drawn into a globe-spanning criminal conspiracy. Virtual realities collide with incr
...more
Ric
Am writing this review in the light of having somewhat panned its sequel novel, Rule 34, so there must have been something likeable in this book that led to my reading the 2nd book. Eh?

Stumped! Can't recall ... umm ... ahhh. Oh, right. It was nominated for the Hugo. Not to say that I read every novel on the Hugo ballot, but gee, this is written by the same author of Iron Sunrise and Glasshouse, which could arguably have won Hugos.

And also, it's about gaming! But, alas, I've read Ready Player One
...more
P. Aaron Potter
I am a late-comer to Stross' "Halting State," and he has moved on to bigger (better?) things. Therefore I feel perfectly comfortable in noting the book's weaknesses as well as its strengths.

This is one of the most annoyingly written good books I've ever read.

The plot is a futurist geek's dream: gamers and hackers and cops and robbers and ninjas all fighting for control of a distributed Augmented Reality RPG which turns out to be the key to, well, pretty much all of civilization. Plus a bucketloa
...more
Jennifer Tatroe
Apr 17, 2009 Jennifer Tatroe rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: game developers, near-future sci-fi fans, MMO players
Shelves: 2009, science-fiction
An attempt to add some science fiction to my reading diet.

Halting State was, like most of the limited sci fi I've read, a book about Ideas. I got the feeling that Stross's plot was there mostly as a curtain rod on which to hang his Ideas about the role of virtual reality and the dangers of hyper-connectivity in the near future. I'll give him this much credit: he definitely didn't put a gun on the wall in Act I that he didn't intend to fire in Act III. Unfortunately, it took way too long to plac
...more
Steve D
Jul 19, 2011 Steve D is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
You see words typed in a review box. They may be something nice or not. You won't know until the person writing the review finishes the book, if they can. You notice that it is very difficult to get into a story or review when it is written in second person.

Your first instinct is to stop reading because you have a gut wrenching feeling that the novel is going to turn into a 300 page math problem that will end with a question. You open the book. You see the words:

"You're four hours into your shi
...more
Stefan
This is the second novel by Charles Stross I've read (the first one was "Accelerando") and despite the fact that they're very different in concept, I'm definitely seeing some similarities in style. Very heavy on the geek jargon, for one. Sort of a hip, fast-moving narrative, full of obvious and less-obvious cultural references, that doesn't really stop to explain much of the techno-babble and assumes you'll either get it or catch up at some point. It's strangely enjoyable --- strangely because I ...more
Kathleen
I enjoyed reading Accelerando so I thought I'd check out this earlier title and I think I liked it even better. The book is set in Scotland in the near future, where infospace/augmented reality is visually overlaid onto the real world via custom eyewear. Actual paper money is a quaint oddity, RFID-tagged clothing programs the washing machines, and cars are very rarely driven by actual drivers.

The story begins with a "bank robbery" in an online game called Avalon Four, where a band of marauding o
...more
William Thomas
What in the hell did I just read? Seriously, what was that?

When I was 14 I read Naked Lunch and was left scratching my head. I loved it but didn't understand it. I read it again later in college and understood that there was very little to understand. It was poetry on the page. It was what it was and there really wasn't a whole lot beneath it's surface. So I learned to take it at face value and loved it even more.

And I felt that way again with this book, only without the love. I felt 14 again a
...more
Tom
Rereading this book (to refresh my memory for diving into the sequel, Rule 34) has caused me to substantially revise my opinion of it. Five stars??? What was I thinking?

Judging by my previous review, I was taken by the plausibility of this near-future scenario and interested in the exploration of online game economies and the possibility of augmented reality. Which would be fine subjects for a ten-page Wired article, but hardly make for a compelling novel.

And that's the problem, there's not much
...more
Jason Pettus
(My full review of this book is much longer than GoodReads' word-count limitations. Find the entire essay at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com].)

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of science-fiction (or SF), and that one of the writers of the newest generation that I keep up with is master mind-screwer-upper Charles Stross, a multiple Hugo-nominated "writer's writer" who is greatly admired by the precise fellow writers who are his Hugo competition each year. In fa
...more
Daniel
Jul 24, 2008 Daniel rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nerds, Charles Stross fans, players of MMOGs
The first buzzwords I heard about this book were along the lines of "bank heist", "MMOs", and "marauding band of orcs." Aha, I thought, here's an interesting premise: "Programmers of a World of Warcraft-like MMO soup-up the AI on a bunch of NPC orcs to make them more of a challenge for their players. But they make the orcs too smart: Using unwitting agents in real-life (aka 'meatspace'), the orcs perpetrate a bank heist in our world, planning to use their loot to buy up in-game currency, items a ...more
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Charles David George "Charlie" Stross is a writer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. His works range from science fiction and Lovecraftian horror to fantasy.

Stross is sometimes regarded as being part of a new generation of British science fiction writers who specialise in hard science fiction and space opera. His contemporaries include Alastair Reynolds, Ken MacLeod, Liz Williams and Richard Morgan.

SF
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More about Charles Stross...
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“They can put the code monkey in a suit but they can't take the code out of the monkey.” 6 likes
“She turns and stalks off in search of other minions to intimidate, leaving you flexing your fingers and trying to decide whether you want to strangle her or go down on your knees and beg for lessons.” 4 likes
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