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Halting State

by Charles Stross

      Hayek Associates is an online game company in a near-future Scotland, and it is being robbed.  Not by any ordinary thieves, but by several orcs and a dragon.  Can the characters in the games be robbing the company themselves?  But Sergeant Sue Smith has not been on the whisky, and solid proof in the shape of dead bodies is not long in coming to convince her that something really is wrong.  Now all she has to do is discover who is behind it, before anybody else gets killed...

This is an imaginative tale, and shows what might happen when technology gets even more advanced and then gets out of hand.  Setting it in the very near future, and in Scotland rather than somewhere more familiar such as London or New York is a stroke of genius, and much of the book is taken up with setting the scene.  This is not as dull as it sounds, and the author has done a very convincing job that carries the book along even when nothing much is happening.  The trouble is that although this involves fantasy characters in some way, this is not a fantasy tale but a species of hard SF.  For full enjoyment (and full comprehension) some considerable level of grasping the jargon is necessary. When, as was the case with this reviewer, that is not present, it detracts somewhat from the humor (this is a funny tale in many respects) and understanding.  For those with the background to appreciate it, this is a well set up story that manages to cross several genres, including crime fiction and modern "disaster" fiction, as well as SF.  Undeniably clever, but perhaps a bit too much so.

The Book

Orbit (Little, Brown)
4 September 2008
1841496650 / 9781841496658
Science Fiction / 2018 Scotland
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2008
© 2008