Thursday, June 13, 2013

Halting State by Charles Stross

I finished reading Halting State by Charles Stross on plane to Hawaii. I bought the book after reading Rule #34 by the same author last year. Halting State is a loose prequel to Rule #34 set in the same world with a couple of the same characters.

One of the things that I liked about Rule #34 is how is it was full of ten-minutes-from-now technology, such as 3D printers. The same is true for Halting State. The plot hinges on anonymized digicash, onion routing, hacker attacks on the core router infrastructure of the internet and hands-free, head-mounted intelligent devices that are worn by users as eyewear. Both of the books envision a world where a technology that sounds very much like Google Glass on steroids is ubiquitous.

At its heart, the book is a police detective story set in the world of the software houses that develop massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG). Set in the People's Republic of Scotland, the main characters investigate a bank robbery carried out by orcs and dragons in the virtual domain of an online gaming company.

One of the odd ideas in the book is that the software houses use smartphones for processing and storage of the multiplayer games. When you think about how much computing horsepower is floating around the world in people's pockets, this is an interesting concept.

The book was one of the finalist for the 2008 Hugo Award. I enjoyed the book and would give it a solid B grade. I liked both of the books enough that I have purchased a third book by the same author which is set in a different world.

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