November 03, 2007

Halting State

"Yes?" she asks, compressing so much data in the the twenty-four-bit monosyllable that if you could patent the algorhythm, you would be set for life.

A bampot is a crazy person. A ned is a non-educated delinquent. A scunner is something that makes you sick or depressed. If you don't know UK/Scottish slang any better than I do you might want to have the Urban Dictionary open while you read this. The UD is quite useful when it comes to acronyms too. Like ARG (Alternate Reality Game). Which Mr Stross (Charles, the author) uses liberally. I'm sorry but I really don't enjoy having to stop and try and figure out what a MOP is.

If you can deal with the dialect and the abbreviations, you will probably really enjoy this story. Reading this novel reminded me of my frustration with British films. I can barely understand the dialog because of the slang and bloody accents.

Halting State is set in the near future, circa 2018, and somebody pulls a bank robbery. Bank robberies aren't that remarkable content for a suspense/mystery novel, except that this one takes place inside of an online Everquest-type role-playing game. The robbery is carried out by a gang of orcs, who have brought along a dragon. The bank they rob consists of safety deposit boxes for players' treasures and weapons. This wouldn't seem like such a big deal, excepting that if enough players quit the game, the managing company's IPO could seriously tank.

Hayek Associates, the managing company, is located in Edinburgh, but the auditing team hired by Hayek's parent company is brought in from "the south", AKA London. The auditors learn that Hayek has a work-at-home programmer whom they haven't seen for a few days.

The main characters are an Edinburgh policewoman, who the CTO mistakenly calls immediately after the virtual heist. (He should've called the white-collar cops instead of the blue-collar.) Elaine, the forensic accountant brought in from London, who likes medieval swordplay, and who turns out to like the local programming consultant her firm hires to help out. You get the story from each of the three alternating points of view. I liked this method of storytelling.

Halting State by Charles Stross is ultimately a fun read. Like I said above, I had a little trouble with the language but that just made it educational, once I looked up the terms. William Gibson fans and others who like "speculative fiction" should really dig on this book.

I seem to be more into novels these days than movies. Perhaps I need to add a form of media to my header graphic. I've always liked that header but it's been up there for a while. The comments still don't work.

Posted by Wayne at November 3, 2007 08:09 PM
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