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Halting State - Charles Stross - NEW Book

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Halting State - Charles Stross -  NEW Book

Halting State - Charles Stross - NEW Book

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The plot opens with a faux email addressed to Nigel MacDonald, listing a job offer. It is later learned that this email is for a work-at-home programmer position at Hayek Associates PLC. It is then learned that a cybercrime has been committed in the MMORPG Avalon Four. A robbery of several thousand dollars worth of "prestige items" occurs in the game's central bank, led by a band of orcs and a "dragon for fire support." It is later noticed that this seemingly simple incident has deep implications -- both financial (Hayek stock price) and logistical (compromised cryptographic keys), which sets the stage for the later half of the novel.

The main story is then divided between police chapters as Sue, investigation sections as Elaine, and programmer and gamer geek sections as Jack. Initially separate storylines, the three inevitably join forces to combat a much larger conspiracy that hinges on international espionage and counterterrorism. These initial segments track the bank robbery and mystery man, Nigel MacDonald, who is revealed as a shadow identity created from Jack Reed's credentials as a programmer and gamer. Eventually, it is discovered that the entirety of the European network backbone -- including its root servers -- have been compromised by Chinese hackers. It is more or less at this point that the wool is removed from the reader's eyes that "it's no longer a game," while Jack and Elaine develop a romance between action segments. Using the game Spooks as a sock puppet for real espionage missions, Jack and Elaine are sent to uncover the identity of a mole inside Hayek Associates, which is subsequently revealed to be a front for European hegemonic interests. The mole is said to have leaked cryptographic keys to "Team Red", or Chinese interests, through a black market. For contrast, the European protagonists are called simply, "Team Blue".

It is at this point that the stage is set for the final confrontation. Using Nigel's shadow identity as bait for Team Red's mole, Elaine and Jack successfully expose and capture Mark Hackman, who is revealed to be the mole and main antagonist. It is then revealed that Hackman had staged the whole thing in order to use strategic put options to siphon million when his own company, Hayek Associates, took the fall for the initial robbery sequence. Jack is shot twice in the abdomen during this exchange, but is seen recovering in a hospital bed by the end of the book. The novel closes with an ironic 419 scam email addressed to Hackman from a one Martin Mase, for the sum of ,023,691.47, implying that these scams are related (or strikingly similar) to prior incidents, Hackman's ploy, and Team Red.

 

About the Author Charles Stross

In the 1970s and 1980s, Stross published some role-playing game articles for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the White Dwarf magazine. Some of his creatures, such as the death knight, githyanki (borrowed from George R. R. Martin's book, Dying of the Light), githzerai, and slaad (a chaotic race notable for their rigid caste system) were later published in the Fiend Folio monster compendium.

Charles Stross first published short story, "The Boys", appeared in Interzone in 1987. Charles Stross first novel, Singularity Sky was published by Ace Books in 2003 and was nominated for the Hugo Award. A collection of Charles Stross short stories, Toast: And Other Rusted Futures appeared in 2002. Subsequent short stories have been nominated for the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, and other awards. His novella "The Concrete Jungle" (available online) won the Hugo award for its category in 2005. His novel Accelerando (also available online) won the 2006 Locus Award for best science fiction novel, was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the year's best science fiction novel, and was on the final ballot for the Hugo Award in the best novel category. Glasshouse won the 2007 Prometheus Award and was on the final ballot for the Hugo Award in the best novel category. Charles Stross novella Missile Gap (likewise available online) won the 2007 Locus Award for best novella and most recently he was awarded the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award or Skylark at Boskone 2008. In addition to working as a writer of fiction he has worked as a technical author, freelance journalist, programmer, and pharmacist at different times. He holds degrees in Pharmacy and Computer Science.

Rogue Farm, an animated film based on his 2003 short story of the same title, debuted in August 2004. He was one of the Guests of Honour at Orbital 2008 the British National Science Fiction convention (Eastercon) in March 2008. He is the Author Guest of Honour at the Maryland Regional Science Fiction Convention (Balticon) in May 2009.

 

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