There are rare occasions when I devour a book and Halting State by Charles Stross was one of them. What interested me initially by this book is that it sounded like it was tied into MMORPG’s (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) of which I am a devoted World of Warcraft (WoW) player (as is my wife and 2 sons). For those of you in the know WoW is by far the most popular MMORPG out there today with some 9 million people (probably 10 million by now) playing the game worldwide.
In any case that was the hook that got me to buy the book and with time on my hands this Holiday I sat down and got immediately caught up in the near future that Stross has created. It is a time when Online Gaming has become pervasive in mainstream society and the concept that William Gibson explores in Spook Country of overlaying the internet (online information) with the real world is the norm. People where “Specs” (glasses) that provide them with contextual information that overlays with the real world such as restaurant reviews, and business directions etc… This concept is already being explored right now with Google Maps (which has moved onto smartphones at this point) so I see that he is definitely exploring our probable future.
The plot itself resolves around a virtual bank robbery that take place in a game called Avalon 4 in which 3 characters emerge to tackle the true nature of the robbery: Jack (a recently fired programmer) Elaine (a forensic accountant brought in to audit the company that was running the virtual bank) and Sue (a police sergeant). Interestingly the story takes place in Scotland which makes for an interesting backdrop for the storyline. Some non-Scottish readers will most likely struggle with Stross’s use of Scottish accents and terminology (ok I did) but for the most part the writing itself was easy to follow and enjoyable.
My goal here is not to ruin this book for other reader so I won’t go into too much detail of the many twists and turns that the book takes, but only say this is a MUST READ! Charles Stross hits a home run with his use of tech, the ramifications of relying to heavily on it and also how people are changed by it in the future. I actually had a conversation with my Dad about the evils of the portable GPS units that have become so prevalent that was spurred by me reading Halting State. When a book is entertaining and also makes me think about where we are heading I know that it is a winner. Enjoy!