Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Intersection of Espionage, Alternate Reality and Technology

Just completed reading Charles Stross' Halting State. Its described to be a thriller set in a world of MMORPGS, personal network computing, and meta organizations. Its a book which requires some background with MMORPGS, IT tech and Espionage to appreciate the content of this book and its story. This kind of mix kinda harkens me to this Millenium Bug inspired thriller Wyrm by Mark Fabi. (Cover below)

Halting State opens up with a police investigation to a robbery of an unusual nature. The robbery in question happens to be conducted in a MMORPG. This prompted an investigation by the police and an insurance claims agency to look into the matter on seperate fronts since it involves both virtual and real world leads. The entire point of the chase later sums up to the idea of intelligence meta-agencies waging an infowar campaign of strike and counterstrike through a ARG (Alternate/Altered Reality Game) called SPOOKS. The McGuffin in this thriller revolves around a certain Nigel McDonald who turns out to a cutout used one of the SPOOKS factions which was later subverted to do some black market work. It was all a cat and mouse game to see who has the upper hand in a game similiar to chess.

I find it quite entertaining given that pervasiveness of MMORPGs have become currently and moreso in the future. The role of Ebay has become a more obvious item of note in regards to the so-called virtual economies to real economies. A lot of technical stuff is a bit over my head since its IT related. I just find it enough to be a fun read at certain parts since my gamer background can discern some gamer-related stuff in the text.

This particular work of Stross is a bit different from his other works Accelerando and Glasshouse which are far future pieces. Halting State is like near future setting based on the trends of today.

It is still an intriguing and entertaining read.


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