Tag Archives: Charles Stross

Halting State

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.

Saturn’s Children

Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a universe where humans are extinct and only their robots survive, Freya-47 is blackmailed by the Jeeves Corporation to smuggle a mysterious package from Mercury to Mars. Freya becomes enmeshed in intrigue and espionage, forcing her to continue her journey to the outer planets, eventually ending up on the dwarf planet Eris in the Kuiper Belt. As she dodges hired assassins, Freya must come to grips with who she is in relation to her long-gone creator Rhea and to her many almost-identical sibs. This is a mystery novel that explores the concepts of free will and identity, and whether technology strips away what it means to be an individual. It is a novel that pays homage to Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein (with a healthy dose of Philip K. Dick) in a modern, fast-paced way. The extrapolation is believable and the science (particularly of extended space flight) is accurate. The novel’s weakness is that the plot is convoluted, with characters continually changing identities and motivations (at least from narrator Freya’s perspective). There is quite a bit of sex (robot sex to be sure, but explicit nonetheless) and violence, so be forewarned. This is an entertaining, creative novel by a prolific and clever writer.