March 14, 2008
Strange Horizons review says Halting State contains "careless, even lazy writing"
David V. Barrett has reviewed Halting State for Strange Horizons. (I don't know David, but he is a former editor of the BSFA journal Vector and a former chair of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, which means he's read a lot of SF.)
Unlike me, he wasn't impressed:
"About half way through the novel I realised that I wasn't all that bothered about the resolution of the ever-increasing complexities of the plot. Why? Because I didn't actually care much what happened to any of the characters."
Which is fine, but I really disagree with the problem of British references:
The problem is one of reference. Halting State is littered with cultural references to the Britain of the last two or three years that few non-Brits will recognise.
The proof copy I read was the US edition—at least, in spelling and punctuation. Yet on just one page we have, with no clue whatsoever to their meaning, HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs), TfL (Transport for London), PPPs (Public-Private Partnerships, a politically popular but controversial financing system in Britain in the 1990s and early 2000s), ECB (European Central Bank), Chelsea tractor (slang for what Britain calls a 4x4 and America calls an SUV), the Tube (the London Underground), and DLR (Docklands Light Railway, a particular line linked to the Underground system).
All of this is careless, even lazy writing.
The Attrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue have glossaries in the back for this purpose. But I hate glossaries. If you want to know what it means, then just Google it! There must be plenty of books full of US references? You can't explain every little detail. What Charles Stross does well is throw the reader into a sometimes overwhelmingly strange world. For example Accelerando is so dense with ideas it can make your head hurt thinking about it, but I love that.
I also love the fact that it's a SF novel set in Scotland, and presumably there will be a fair few Americans who love that too. Scotland is so exotic ;-)