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Halting State by Charles Stross

By Jack | Books | September 9, 2009 |

By Jack | Books | September 9, 2009 |

It’s a got a groovy beat and I can totally dance to it, I’d give it a 92

It’s got a groove, but it kinda slides into noise towards the end, I’d give it an 83

This is how I imagine myself rating this book to a Dick Clark who’s younger than he was at my birth on a show I’ve only seen in reruns

This is my first Stross novel, and it’s good. And, there is a lot going on. It’s set in the future for starters, a really convincingly constructed future if I do say so myself. And it revolves around virtual reality games. I haven’t played a video game since Atari, and other than a very hung over Saturday in 2002 when I laid on the couch and watched two friends play Grand Theft Auto for 5 hours waiting for the pain to go away, I haven’t seen one either (I don’t get out of my box much). I can imagine if I knew more about the games in general the novel would have been even more impressive. Stross is amazingly convincing in his depiction of both the game and the future.

Stross gets a lot done with his setting alone. There is all kind of social and political commentary on our present just under the surface of his seemingly innocent references to the places in the story. The characters, at first, had me worried: pushy, loud, CEO; mousy, with potential, forensic accountant; schlubish super programmer guy; tough as nails police chick. However, Stross manages to give each one of those cut outs enough to make them human and compelling and impressively surprising in moments. There is one relationship that you know is coming but it emerges at a pace that seems suddenly rushed three quarters of the way, as if a nearing plot point required the relationship more than the characters.

I hate books that wrap up with neat little endings as a rule. And this one wraps up, but it’s not necessarily neat and the information withheld until the final 20 pages doesn’t drop out of nowhere — another thing I hate.

Overall I’m leaning more with side one of my brain as I finish this review; maybe it’s not noise so much as just a single instrument out of key.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Jack’s reviews, check his blog, Reads for Fun.

Pajiba After Dark 9/08/09 | Zombieland Promo Clips

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.