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Halting State

(Halting State #1)

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  11,693 ratings  ·  851 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 start-up company that's just floated onto the London stock exchange. But this crime may be a bit beyond Smith's expertise.

The prime suspects are a band of marauding orcs with a dragon in tow for fire suppo
Hardcover, 351 pages
Published October 2nd 2007 by Ace Books
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  11,693 ratings  ·  851 reviews

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Feb 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 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 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 Lives!
Feb 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
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 rated it liked it
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 rated it it was ok
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
Megan Baxter
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 t
Apr 21, 2008 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
Jan 07, 2009 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
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
Jan 03, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 28, 2018 rated it did not like it
There's pretentiousness, and then there's Second Person Narration pretentiousness. And then there's Second Person Narration, Different POV Character For Each Chapter. I couldn't get past that.

Game industry and emergent virtual economies and assorted hacker caper/heist stuff is interesting in real life, but fictionalized versions are not, especially when it all hangs on handwaving and near-future extrapolations that didn't quite feel right.

I can sort of see the narration choice as a callback to o
Dec 30, 2007 rated it liked it
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
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. ...more
Kara 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
Mar 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Jason Plein
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
Storyline: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Writing Style: 2/5
World: 3/5

Starting with 2004, Charles Stross books found their way to the Hugo Award finals for six consecutive years. Those books earned such recognition because Stross has engaging science fiction ideas and a lot of technological knowledge with which to support them. Halting State is no different. In this award nominee he shifts from themes such as relativity, the singularity, and longevity to a near future look at…online gaming. Yes, games. So Ha
Kolya Matteo
Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
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
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
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
May 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
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 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
Nov 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Gamers, science fiction readers
Recommended to Jeffrey by: Locus Magazine
Interesting science fiction speculative story with game play, mystery, cops and robbers and espionage all taking place in Scotland and Europe. The book starts out with a bang but about midway through I thought the author labored a little for about 20 pages as the story went in too many directions at once. Finally, I thought the ending was just not convincing, but all in all a fun read.

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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.


Other books in the series

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

News & Interviews

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“They can put the code monkey in a suit but they can't take the code out of the monkey.” 10 likes
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