Monday, 3 September 2012

Halting State and Rule 34 are Good Books

Or why you should read Halting State and Rule 34 by Charles Stross.

Charles Stross is easily one of my favourite authors. He writes compelling stories populated with bright characters that with plots driven by very high concept Science Fiction. His books are always brimming with big ideas, both the huge plot moving ones as well as many momentarily glimpsed throw away ones. You get more thoughtful futurism (things that are possible or grounded in reasonable Science) than is common in modern Sci-fi. As a pleasent bonus, his high concept big idea novels are also generally liberally seasoned with humour, which is unfortunately rare in the genre. Charles Stross is always worth checking out.

Halting state and Rule 34 are at their core near-future, hard Sci-fi police procedural novels. They highlight how changes in technology have and will continue to change how law enforcement is conducted and how trends in technology may affect our daily lives. So they are pretty smart books.

Halting state: This novel is set in the newly independent nation of Scotland in the year 2012 (it's a little older) and follows Detective Sergeant Sue Smith, unemployed programmer Jack Reed, and forensic accountant Elaine Barnaby as they attempt to figure out who conducted a heist of the central bank in a popular MMORPG. The book itself explores ideas of contemporary/future police work, human intelligence espionage, LARP gaming, and the way in which information technology has become integral to life in general and law enforcement in particular. Halting state also explores the consequences of our reliance on said technology when this technology fails us. It's an interesting, suspenseful, and fun novel. 

Rule 34: This semi-sequel to Halting State takes place in Edinborough in 2023 and is focused on the hunt for a logic governed serial killer that is incapable of remorse. The book takes its name from the Rule 34 Squad: a group of Scottish detectives that monitor the internet for alarming and frequently pornographic viral memes. (Play on the idea that if it exists, there is porn of it on the internet. No exceptions.) Detective Inspector Liz  Kavanaugh, the head of the Rule 34 squad, becomes alerted to the murder of a small time porn hustler in a most compromising set of circumstances and is embroiled in the search for his killer. Also entangled in the manhunt are Anwar, a closetted bisexual muslim excon who becomes the consulate of a small Asian country, and The Toymaker, a psychopathic illegal pornography distributor looking to establish business in Edinborough. What follows is a book that examines the  ever evolving world of policing, the politics of gender and sexual orientation, commodfying international debt, organized crime, and MURDER.

I would recommend these books to any maturish audience. They are thought provoking and fun to read and just overall good books. If you aren't convinced to read both, at least give Rule 34 a try. It's stand alone and by far the more entertaining of the two.

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