My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Halting State by Charles Stross is a tour de force melding of police procedural and cyberpunk. In the year 2018, Sergeant Sue Smith of the Edinburgh constabulary is called to investigate a virtual robbery in an online game space by a band of orcs at a dot-com startup company. Jack Reed, a computer expert, and Elaine Barnaby, an insurance investigator, are quickly called in to spearhead the insurance company’s investigation. They soon realize that there is more than meets the eye, and are caught in a web of high-power politics and finance, not to mention murder. Stross creates a detailed world filled with wonderful gadgets, good characterizations, and plenty of action, not to mention some quirky humor. Possibly the biggest hurdle in reading the book is that it is written in the second person. This makes sense for a story centered on role-playing games, since that is how most game masters run their games. I didn’t find this hard to comprehend (actually, it didn’t really register until about halfway through the book), perhaps since I have played enough D&D to be used to this style. It’s a brave choice, but I thought it worked fine. I’ve read several other Stross novels and stories, and have been delighted with all of them. He has jumped onto my favorites list.