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Ermahgerd. Berks.

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Caliban's War
James S.A. Corey
The Shining Girls

Halting State

Halting State - Charles Stross Charles Stross decided it would be a good idea to write Halting State entirely in second person. I briefly toyed with doing the same for my review, but then I remembered that I already did that, and it wasn't that amusing.Then I thought maybe I would do the whole thing in code like a l33t haXor, which would have been appropriate since this book finds it the height of amusement to throw around with-it language like "n00b" and "pwned."Then I realized that it is obnoxious to force readers to suffer an affected writing style or stylistic quirk unless you have a really good reason, and "because it's cute and mildly thematically relevant" is not a good enough reason, are you listening, Charles Stross?I did not like this book, perhaps because it is about the online gaming community, by which I mean obsessives who spend way too much time playing World of Warcraft, and my idea of a video game binge still tends more toward playing through all of Super Mario World in one night. Maybe if you play Everquest enough to think it is funny to call it "Evercrack" (do people still play EverQuest?), then this book is a hilarious romp of in-jokes and references.If you do not, though, it is a dull, unimaginative slice of near-future sci-fi that was quite possibly dated before the manuscript was fully edited. Near-future stuff is tough because if you predict wrong, you just look silly (where are the intergalactic army brigades of 1997, Joe Haldeman?). Stross plays it safe by predicting almost nothing. In 202X, we'll all still be playing online games with fantasy-themed avatars and using the same tired netspeak. The only difference is we will use VR goggles (the future of 1994!) and the U.K. will have collapsed (also the U.S. economy, oh, daring). Everyone will be a gamer, to the point where a virtual crime committed inside of a game could have global economic effects to the tune of billions of Euros! Possibly. I admit I didn't quite follow all of it.But basically, it goes like this: crime is committed inside a video game when a bunch of in-game objects (spells, swords, treasure) are stolen. Cops and insurance companies get involved and investigate. Larger conspiracies unfold. It almost sounds interesting. But then the first 2/3 are all about setting up the gaming culture, describing avatars, going off on tangents about how you'll be able to check Yelp! reviews in the future using a virtual in-glasses display (no, really, there is a long bit about looking up a good restaurant online), and poorly developing a cast of four stock point-of-view characters via the aforementioned unwise decision to write entirely in second person (I guess because YOU are the character in this video game obsessed narrative). (And to clarify: that means that the "you" you are reading about is referencing four samey characters, which can make it hard to remember who you are at any given time, even though the chapter titles tell you which character is featured.) Only in the last part are the real stakes revealed, if by "revealed" you mean "explained via a series of confusing expository conversations."The worst are the "action sequences" set inside a game, which clearly have absolutely no real world impact and are thus about as interesting as watching your nerdy cousin play X-Box. Game over. No continues.