Hugo winner Stross blends plausible near-future SF and crime in this brisk sequel to 2007's Halting State. In the mid-2020s, the police monitor the Internet full-time to prevent crime. In Edinburgh, this job falls to DI Liz Kavanaugh's Rule 34 Squad (whose name refers to the Internet truism that "if it exists, there's porn about it"). Kavanaugh views the position as a demotion, but she has a chance to get her once-promising career back on track when she is called to supervise the inquiry into the death of drug dealer Michael Blair, who was found dead on his bathroom floor, decked out in s&m garb. Her investigations are interwoven with the stories of an unlikely diplomat and a criminal known as the Toymaker. Each section builds on the others, making the whole more than the sum of its parts. (July)
Called to the scene of a gruesome and bizarre murder, Detective Inspector Liz Kavanaugh, head of Edinburgh's Innovative Crime Investigation Unit (the "Rule 34 Squad"), discovers a rash of criminal activities that span the globe and seem to be linked to a particular kind of Internet research involving sophisticated programs that target illicit cyberactivities. Faced with pressure from her department to curtail her efforts, Kavanaugh must weigh the importance of her career against the need to do what is right, regardless of the cost. VERDICT Stross (Singularity Sky) draws on tomorrow's technologies to create a story that features intriguingly offbeat characters and a labyrinthine puzzle of a plot. Fans of modern cyber-fi literature as well as technological thrillers should enjoy this thinking person's sf adventure.
Another detective joins the celebrated ranks of Edinburgh's finest, this one with Stross' distinctive science-fictional twist.
Set in the same universe asHalting State(2007) ten years on, the narrative advances several points of view, each written in the same eye-watering second-person present tense; it's supposed to feel like you're inhabiting several avatars in an online computer game—fine, but what if you just want to read a book? Murder is rare in Edinburgh, and the case of an ex-con spammer murdered apparently by bad drugs and a defective machine seems bizarre in the extreme, but DI Liz Kavanaugh soon notices similarities with other equally weird cases in Germany and Italy. And soon Euro-cop Kemal Aslan arrives with other examples. A second Edinburgh victim turns up, a shady accountant shrink-wrapped to a bed of obsolete currency. Meanwhile, the Toymaker, a (literally) psychotic enforcer and facilitator for a criminal network, the Organization, arrives to houseclean the current incompetent staff and recruit some fresh talent. First on his list of potential new hires is Liz's first victim, and the second—you guessed it. In a nearby pub, informatics professor Adam MacDonald, aka the Gnome, inventor of a spam-killer app called ATHENA, talks desperate ex-con hacker Anwar Hussein into becoming consular representative for a bankrupt ex-Soviet splinter republic—the sort of business the newly independent Scottish Euro-state is happy to encourage. Anwar's duties involve distributing free bread mix kits—and providing assistance to a certain John Christie, the Toymaker's current identity. Somehow, Stross ties it all together inside one of the most intelligently and philosophically detailed near-futures ever conceived, although at times the eyes of all but the most well-informed reader will glaze over.
Dazzling, chilling and brilliant.