Sunday, August 17, 2008

The economies of seventeen imaginary realms

A few pages into Halting State by Charles Stross, you realize that a novel written entirely in the second person has a fair chance of being tiresomely intimate. Your relationship with Stross is a bit strained as it is, a mix of admiration for his alpha geek approach to writing, and annoyance with same. Accelerando and The Glasshouse were smart and funny, The Jennifer Morgue was hip and empty, and you realize that it's now up to Halting State to decide your continued interest in Stross. It doesn't take long for your fears to subside, and you even find yourself enjoying the second person gimmick. This near-future MMORPG bank heist story, an attempt to bring cyberpunk tropes into the age of World of Warcraft, is the good old Stross. It reminds you why you came to like Stross in the first place: Because all his characters talk like hyper-caffeinated tech geeks who read all the science journals you wish you had time for. Then again, you dislike some of his other books for exactly the same reason. It's hard to explain - Stross is like the subcultural equivalent of the town you grew up in: It's a nice place to visit once a while, familiarity greets you everywhere you turn, but it grows tiresome if you stay too long, and it's hard to explain its peculiar charm to out-of-towners.



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