This brilliantly conceived techno-crime thriller spreads a black humor frosting over the grim prospect of the year 2012, when China, India and the European System are struggling for world economic domination in an "infowar," and the U.S. faces bankruptcy over its failing infrastructure. Sgt. Sue Smith of Edinburgh's finest, London insurance accountant Elaine Barnaby and hapless secret-ridden programmer Jack Reed peel back layer after layer of a scheme to siphon vast assets from Hayek Associates, a firm whose tentacles spread into international economies. The theft is routed through Avalon Four, a virtual reality world complete with supposedly robbery-proof banks. As an electronic intelligence agency trains innocent gamers to do its dirty work, Elaine sets Jack to catch the poacher. Hugo-winner Stross (Glasshouse) creates a deeply immersive story, writing all three perspectives in the authoritative second-person style of video game instructions and gleefully spiking the intrigue with virtual Orcs, dragons and swordplay. The effortless transformation of today's technological frustrations into tomorrow's nightmare realities is all too real for comfort. (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The setting is a virtual world called Avalon Four; the year, 2018. Sgt. Sue Smith, an Edinburgh constable, takes on a special case: a bank robbery committed by a team of Orcs with a dragon for backup. As Smith delves further into the case, both in the real and in the virtual worlds, she uncovers evidence that the crime is more than simply a robbery. Hugo Award winner Stross's fast-paced sf techno-thriller shows promise as a series opener and belongs in most libraries.
Opening salvo in a near-future Information War, from Stross (Glasshouse, 2006, etc.). In 2018, in the People's Republic of Scotland, Wayne Richardson, marketing director of Hayek Associates, a new dotcom startup involved with online virtual-reality gaming, calls the cops in a panic. He attempts to explain to dogged Sergeant Sue Smith that he's been robbed by Orcs, who've raided the bank of VR game land Avalon Four. It emerges that Hayek acts as a stabilizer for the economies of numerous online reality games, and if word of the robbery leaks out, their share price could plummet. Meanwhile, Hayek's backers, sensing an attempt at stock-price manipulation, send forensic accountant and gamer Elaine Barnaby-who, once she grasps the situation, insists on calling in programmer and games expert Jack Reed to assist. As Elaine and Jack probe the robbery, it becomes clear that something else is going on-as evidenced by an anonymous threat to kidnap Jack's niece, then an attempt to kill them both. The world's three information superpowers-Europe, China and India-are poised to go to war. Chinese Intelligence dreamed up a way of subverting the computing system of a medium-sized European nation using hackers and VR game-players. Elaine and Jack learn, however, that Hayek itself is a front for British Intelligence, which has used the VR/role-playing game SPOOKS to train a cadre of willing and utterly unsuspecting counter-operatives-including Jack and Elaine!The book is written using three second-person present-tense narrators (for no apparent reason except that Stross, convincingly, can). Throughout, he displays a knack for turning outrageously improbable speculation into certainty in this fast-paced,skillfully constructed computational mirror-maze.