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18 May 2008 @ 12:19 pm
Halting State  
Halting State by Charles Stross is an ever-so-slightly tongue in cheek technological thriller/detective story set in post-independence Scotland. It is also both well-plotted and well-written right up until its rather rushed denouement which doesn't quite manage to tie up the plot threads in a satisfying fashion, but the rest of the book is so good I was prepared to forgive.

I think its a sign of the writing quality that I didn't actually notice it was written entirely in the second person until page 46 and, honestly, second-person point-of-view is the sort of thing that makes me put down books very rapidly. On checking I've just realised its also written in the present tense and I got through all 338 pages without noticing that!. Given that the central crime under investigation is a theft taking place through a Worlds of Warcraft style online game the second person, present tense, style of writing actually makes a fair amount of sense.

The world building of near-future Edinburgh is great. We get to see independent Scotland's awkward relationship with the rest of Britain; a reasonably realised glimpse forward at the effects of pervasive virtual environments; including a fun take on the nature and uses of gaming and larping within such pervasive computational contexts and a look at the distinct nature of virtual economies together with their intersection with and impact upon real economies and companies.

The three viewpoint characters are all both interesting and likeable, every page is brimming with geeky in-jokes (is that Bloodspell one on page 143? "Now it's an invisible badger - the best kind of camera") and the central detective story is mostly well-plotted (up to the slightly disappointing end point) and gripping. Recommended.
 
 
 
Hugh / Cairmencairmen on May 18th, 2008 12:21 pm (UTC)
Yup, that's a BloodSpell reference.
Tsixgun45lc on May 19th, 2008 05:05 pm (UTC)
Scotland is electing its own Parliament, now, isn't it? I thought I remembered reading that somewhere a while back.
louisedennislouisedennis on May 21st, 2008 12:27 pm (UTC)
Yes! Scotland has a parliament responsible for local government, as it were (i.e., not foreign policy) and with "tax varying" powers (i.e., I think it can alter income tax within 3% of the rest of the UK's income tax).

However the Scottish National Party is currently in power there so they are working up to, at some point, holding a referendum on full independence. I say at some point, because some factions of the Scottish Labour party are agitating for a referendum as soon as possible (which the SNP are resisting) on, it would seem, the grounds that the SNP will lose it and won't be able to call another for a few decades.
Tsixgun45lc on May 22nd, 2008 06:38 pm (UTC)
Interesting. Funny how it's easier to talk about stuff like that than it is to actually call the question and risk blowing it, don't you think?