Sunday, April 27, 2008

Halting State - Charles Stross

Taggart 2030.

Or, it seems a bit like that at times, especially with Sergeant Smith and company.

The second person thing didn't really worry me at all, I had read the first two or three chapters on the web, so once you get used to it after a few pages I found I wasn't really noticing it at all, and just reading it the same as any other novel.

An in-game raid on a bank in a MMORPG leads to an investigation, that has intelligence, financial and communications implications.

A near future setting where people are even more wired, and physical reality has a virtual overlay where things can be tagged, or have information added to them like a wiki, and people use this via mobile phones and glasses. The police, for example, use CopSpace.

Gaming is more prevalent, with people also taking part in large scale LARP and what they call ARG - co-ordinated by computer and phone - one of which, amusinglyg enough, is called 'SPOOKS'. No mention of games of Hustle or Life On Mars though, maybe firing up the Quatro would be frowned upon by law-enforcement. :)

For some of the flavour :

"..They're guarding some loot I need to get my hands on. About a quarter of a million lines of source code, squirreled away among the skeletons and treasures guarded by a fiercely large Shoggoth; if you want to keep your data secure, there's nothing quite like sticking it in a record in a holographic distributed database that's guarded by Lovecraftian horrors."


"The traffic looks like game-play to GCHQ or CESG or NSA or whoever's sniffing packets; looking in-game for characters run by Abdullah and Salim holding private chat about blowing up the White House garden gnomes won't get you a handle on what's going on because they're not using the game a sa ludic universe to chat in, they're using it as a transport layer! They're tunnelling TCP/IP over AD&D!"

There are three main characters, a game developer, a forensic accountant, and a police Sergeant, with stories told in three different threads, as their investigation leads into something rather nastier going on in real-life.

4 out of 5

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