Stross, Charles -- Halting State

Stross thumps out books nearly as fast as Bear; unlike Bear, most of Stross's are in hardback, and I finally said "Dude, gotta start waiting for the paperbacks here." (Except for Bob Howard stories, of course.) Then I learned that Halting State was written in second person, and I caved. It's my turf, man, I have to keep an eye on.

This is a fast-running novel of gamers gone bad in near-future Glasgow. As usual, Stross can write technobabble for the techies -- his picture of distributed virtual worlds, used for everything from RPGs and LARPs to police work, is entirely convincing -- even when an odd sort of crime sets both the gamers and the cops digging into the programmers, development houses, and venture capital firms that make it all go. Where it all goes, unsurprisingly, is to hell in a handbasket.

The second-person storytelling did not bother me. (Mind you, as I said, I'm used to that sort of thing; it may bother you more.) There are several narrators, but they're distinct enough that the trick rapidly became transparent. Stross uses it essentially the same as first-person prose. I don't think it would be a very different novel if it were in first person. In other words, it's just a style thing, and it works for me.

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