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Halting State (Halting State #1)

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  10,275 Ratings  ·  794 Reviews
Now in paperback?from the author of "Saturn's Children."
In the year 2018, a daring bank robbery has taken place at Hayek Associates. 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 land of Avalon Four. But Sergeant Sue Smith discovers that this virtual world robbery may be linked to some
ebook, 336 pages
Published October 1st 2007 by Ace Books
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Feb 06, 2011 j rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 01, 2011 Simeon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
+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,
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
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
Sep 05, 2008 Sandi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance]
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
Oct 04, 2007 Seth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 31, 2007 Janet rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
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
Apr 21, 2008 Tricia rated it really liked it  ·  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
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
Megan Baxter
Dec 22, 2016 Megan Baxter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 revie
Weird but good scifi novel about a crime (or not) that may (or not) have occurred inside a virtual reality game. It's told in second person (to give you the feel of playing a game, I think) from the alternating perspectives of three people who are trying to figure out what happened (or didn't). Definitely took me a bit to get used to the unusual storytelling mode.
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
As confusing as Nexus was without a real beginning, this one is even worse. Still no real beginning, just jumping into the action, except it starts with more characters, some of who have similar names (I never did figure out the difference between Michaels and Marcus). The fact that it's told in the 2nd person doesn't hurt as much as you think it would, but at the beginning it sure doesn't help because it means that names don't get mentioned as often and you can't tell who is doing what. I think ...more
Jan 07, 2009 Brownbetty marked it as abandoned-unfinished  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 03, 2009 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The last time I reread this book must have been before I was writing reviews. I figure this is the 3rd time through at least, and each time I like this book more.

Is it written weirdly? Sure. And the fact that it has a stylistic element - that is a piece of it is written in 2nd person and some of it is written in Scotts dialect - these are negatives.

But the ideas behind it - from the augmented reality of cop space. To the Spooks spy network - to the self-driving cars - to Scotland becoming indepe
Dec 30, 2007 Jenne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Cyberpunk books often try to mix two or more themes together and usually are confusing and unsuccessful. This is another worst the average attempt that has also failed. The languages (2nd person, gaelic, online gaming, police lingo, and few others) are added to be cute but only distract from the story. The plot is weak and undeveloped at best and the transitions from one idea to another are very hard to follow.
Apr 24, 2012 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 28, 2013 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
In the world-to-come, scary governments and scary nongovernments have figured out how to use live action role play and massively multiplayer online games to continue diplomacy by other means. Everything is monitored; everything monitoring system is infiltrated; every need in Maslow's hierarchy is a reward pellet to get the rats to run the maze and solve someone else’s problem. Our enemies are pale ghosts in the machine; no need to rewire our soldiers’ moral machinery before they are willing to s ...more
This book varied wildly for me.

The beginning? Ugh. 2nd person is just not my favorite point of view, and it didn't help that each chapter I was supposed to be another person. It took a long time to figure out what the heck I was reading. The pain of stunt-ridden prose eased over time, though. I guess even the most awkward stretches gets easier with practice.

The middle got more interesting and I found that I was okay with how it was going. The plot was a bit thick, but okay. The characters were
May 22, 2009 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 14, 2013 Viccy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
I tried. I wanted to like it, but at page 81 when one of the characters began a five-page description of the ins and outs of money in an online game, my eyes glazed over. I know it was necessary for the plot, but it was just excruciating. I will stick with the Laundry File novels.
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 [].)

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
Apr 30, 2012 Tom rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
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
P. Aaron Potter
Mar 12, 2013 P. Aaron Potter rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, geek
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
This is more like a 3.25, one day Goodreads will let me break down star ratings

Halting State takes place in a near-future Scotland, now independent from the rest of the UK, and a full member of the EU. The setting is around 2016-2018, and a lot of gadgets have come out, enhancing our reality. A lot of them existed to an extent in 2007, and others are coming very soon indeed (the glasses the protagonists wear are pretty much Google Glass, for instance).

The story follows Sue (a policewoman), Elain
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Science Fiction A...: * Halting State-September 2016 Cyber-punk 4 23 Sep 28, 2016 05:37PM  
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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.

More about Charles Stross...

Other Books in the Series

Halting State (2 books)
  • Rule 34 (Halting State, #2)

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“They can put the code monkey in a suit but they can't take the code out of the monkey.” 8 likes
“Nobody ever imagined a bunch of Orcs would steal a database table…” 4 likes
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