Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Halting State Halting State
by Charles Stross
Orbit Books

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Simon Litten

You’re the new hire, the new resident subject matter, you’re at your first inter-departmental team meeting and everyone is talking acronyms…and you’re called on to demonstrate something simple like walking on water. While this is not the premise of Mr Stross’s latest novel, it is certainly the pervasive atmosphere.

Halting State is a near-future spy thriller, based around online computer gaming and Stross’s own predictions for convergent developments in cellphones, iPods, PDAs, and the like, and surveillance technology.

The story is told from three separate character points of view; sometimes in sequence and sometimes in parallel. Most of the time this three-way point of view works, but I kept feeling that there were really only two characters, and at times that they were swapping clothes and personalities. The other difficulty, if I could describe it as such, I had with the writing was the acronym heavy language with said acronyms sometimes explained chapters after they were introduced. However, given the context of the acronym use and the type of story the presence of to-be-guessed-at abbreviations was forgivable.

Those quibbles aside, and for me they were only quibbles, this book was a real page turner with some laugh out loud moments. I enjoyed it. Given Stross’s tendency to write revisit characters and scenarios, I look forward to reading the sequels to this book – whenever he may chose to write them.

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