Halting State

I've mentioned elsewhere on this site that Charles Stross is right at the top of my list of favorite current authors, so it should surprise no one that I eagerly attacked Halting State as soon as it arrived. I was actually even more eager than that - ever since he reported on his site eighteen months ago or so that he was working on a "near-future thriller set against the world of massively multiplayer virtual reality games", I was as expectant as I've been about any book in years. Near-future is about the hardest thing in SF to pull off, and given Mr. Stross's demonstrated fervor for attacking big conceptual challenges head-on with pit bull ferocity and doing his best to rip their throats out, well, I was sure he was not about to sidestep the possibilities and have his narrative take place in a Starbuck's over lattes, shall we say. And did I mention - as long we're talking conceptual challenges - that it's all written in second-person voice?

It's a good book. It's a very good book, and a very smart book. It evolves so nicely, in fact, that it would be unfair to discuss the plot more than elliptically. He's used bits and pieces of tropes, plot devices, turns of phrase, and a few tics that we've seen before, but it's all assembled into a neater, tidier package this time. The conceptual infodump overload that could leave a reader with the full somatic nausea of futurelag in Accelerando is under much more control here, although of course we're only traveling ten years out, and not close to the Singularity, either. (He's also extrapolating along an axis I know a lot about professionally, as well as through general net-aware sponge-knowledge.) Indeed, it feels as though he may have deliberately intended Halting State to have breakout potential; in a way it's almost a miniature, compared to some of his other grand canvases, and could easily appeal to a much broader audience than he's addressed above. Definitely check it out! He's made it easy - the prologue and the first three chapters are posted for download...

© 2007-2014 by Mayer Brenner             

Some Rights Reserved