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Ahem ...

US Halting State Cover
UK Halting State cover(Author clears throat, looks around nervously, climbs on soap box) ...

My latest novel, "Halting State", a near-future thriller of skullduggery and rules lawyering in the shadowy world of massively multiplayer virtual reality games, is officially published today in the US. (It'll be published in trade paperback in the UK in early January.) The book covers to either side link to Amazon pages where you can buy them now: it's interesting to compare the different approaches the British and American art directors have taken.

Now, if I wasn't a self-effacing Brit, I ought to be taking this opportunity to tell you how good this book is, and how you can't possibly live without it. But I'm shy and bashful, so I'll leave it up to some other folks to tell you about it.

Vernor Vinge said: "Charles Stross is the most spectacular science-fiction writer of recent years. In 'Halting State', he has written a near-future story that is at once over-the-top and compellingly believable.".

And William Gibson commented: "As keenly observant of our emergent society as it is our emergent technologies, 'Halting State' is one extremely smart species of fun."

But wait, there's more!

John Carmack (yes, that John Carmack) adds, "Just the right mix of extrapolation and intrigue to leave me wondering to the very end."

While Bruce Schneier enthuses,"A great read, and a fascinating look at future of security in a massively networked world."

And the New York Times froths: "The Act of creation seems to come easily to Charles Stross ... [He] is peerless at dreaming up devices that could conceivably exist in six, sixty, or six hundred years' time".

Now that I've dropped the cover blurb neutron bomb, don't you want to read it?



It is also a "Featured Selection" for this month for the Science Fiction Book Club in the US. Although it won't get in my hands as fast that way, it helped reduce my first year "obligation" to the club.


Also listed as #5 in Wired Magazines Playlist item in the Oct 2007 issue with a highly complementary review.


Heh. The John Carmack quote does it. I'm so buying this book.

On a more serious note, why is it that UK covers are always *so* much nicer (not to mention funnier) than the US editions. Think I'll order this one from overseas.


Michael, I do not think it would be appropriate for me to comment on the comparative merits of my UK covers versus their US equivalents; I've got to work with both publishing companies, after all! But I think it's safe to say that the British and American covers are both designed to sell the book in a manner deemed appropriate for their respective markets' interests. The British and American design traditions differ sharply, and fashions in cover art are currently diverging.

(Ace printed up Advance Reader Copies and distributed them to the trade, and the cover on the ARC didn't have an Edinburgh skyline on it, or a female figure: it was about as abstract as the UK cover. However, as a result of direct feedback from the big chain store buyers they felt the need to change it. Personally I preferred the original version, but what do I know about the psychology of retailing? I've got to assume the professionals know what they're doing -- and at least they let me comment on the redesign before they finalized it.)


The "That John Carmack" link goes to a disambiguation page (-:

I'm assuming you meant /that/ John Carmack, not /the other/ John Carmack. Anyway, congratulations. Can't wait for it to be published in Europe.


"Now that I've dropped the cover blurb neutron bomb, don't you want to read it?"

Mission accomplished!


Andreas: link will be fixed ASAP.


now the problem is of course that even though I like the british cover better, it will be a paperback and it will be available later. Darn. Do I have to buy both now?


For some reason, my library got it two weeks ago. Very fun book, Charles...and my mummy lobe tells me that you're a horrible man.


So, what crack dealer ebook retailer do we look to for this one?


The crowd demands a mobipocket version! :)


On ebooks: I believe Amazon (who own Mobipocket) are having a major ebook push later this month. A mobipocket edition (not to mention Sony, Adobe, MS Reader and Palm editions) should be available within the month. I'd guess this means you'll find it on in due course. I expect that these editions will be DRM'd and priced so as not to undercut the hardcover (boo) but you never know; Amazon don't seem to be too fond of DRM (as witness their MP3 storefront) and there are some signs of publishers waking up to the price sensitivity of ebook editions.

I hope to have something tasty to announce to coincide with the UK launch, but I can't comment on matters still under discussion.


The UK version reminds me of the cover used for Douglas Coupland's Microserfs.


Hope you have plenty of copies on hand at the San Francisco signing. See you there!


it's interesting to compare the different approaches the British and American art directors have taken.

They're both pretty mediocre.

Why is it that great SF illustrators like Martiniere and Donato are so rarely commissioned to do covers for my favorite SF authors?


D. Ellis: an original cover painting for a book costs money. In some cases, the fee for the cover art can equal the advance the writer gets paid for the book. Not getting an expensive painting can mean one or more of three things: (a) they don't have a significant marketing budget for your book, (b) they think your book will sell well even without an expensive painting, or (c) expensive paintings are out of fashion in marketing circles.

In my case, it seems to be a combination of (b) and (c).


Dude. I'll admit it. The U.S. cover is aimed at me. It's totally bitchen cool, wicked fresh, word, and would get me to pick the thing up. Exotic woman, headphone thing, strange skyline, cool (even if I'm ashamed that I think it's cool) font, weird swoopy things on the right.

The British cover looks like a users manual. Low friction. My eye, she bleeps right over it.

Of course, I am one of the few commenters on this blog who doesn't like science fiction. (With a few exceptions, obviously.) So, speaking as the marginal consumer in the Barnes & Noble that they're trying to attract, they done did good, Charlie.


Alas, I have to wait until Thursday to have it in my hot little hands.

I think the Brit cover makes it look like some sort of comedy. I like the US cover. Good thing, since that'll be the one I'm getting.


Well, it is some sort of comedy.

And a lot of other things besides.


And I was about to CANCEL my SFBC subscription.. I'll buy this one just because I enjoyed accelerando, & iron sunrise recently..

Some blogger the other day was talking about how all genre lit is a rehash of the same stuff..
and he didn't even exempt Sci Fi
(OK Critical elements in Good Sci Fi are the "new idea".. and extrapolation of future trends.. if it doesn't have that..
-- so is that the "same-old" New stuff?

Charles, your stuff has lots of "new Ideas", and you have been
pushing the edge in extrapolation..
Keep it up.


NB: I am currently feeling a little smug, because "Halting State" is the #4 top seller in SF on right now, #9 in SF and Fantasy (Fantasy outsells SF by 2:1), and sales ranked at #219 overall.

Thank you all.


Looks like Borders in the Bay Area broke street-date, if today is official release. However, as someone has already noted, seems like libraries also get to break street date!

However, this simply means I have already grabbed and read your newest brainchild. I will refrain from lowering myself to fanboy-esque blathering here. All that can be said is that you have once more managed to combine a fast paced, enjoyable tale with matter more dense and thought provoking - and on a subject that has been throw around in my circles for awhile, as intellectual exercise on how strange things are becoming as electronic communities begin to break the barriers of states and nations.


Want to read it? I've had it on preorder for 2 months. So, ah, there.


I've just finished Jennifer Morgue (excellent book btw :-)) so I'm buying Halting State ASAP. re: the covers I find that british covers in general is much nicer than american. But this is an exception. It looks bloody awful (sorry Charlie)


On second thought, the american cover doesn't really match the insides as they're described in the back blurb. It looks more like a Heavy Metal (the magazine that is) cover. Thus is might fool a potential reader, who looks for fantasy/sf books. It's still a much nicer cover though, [suck up] and I don't doubt that people who buy the american edition will become instant Stross fans... [/suck up] ;-)


I also think the US cover looks better, it would be interesting to see what would happen both designs were offered on equal terms. I've had it pre ordered from Amazon for a while - it's supposed to be arriving between 19 October and 2 November (must be paddling itself over the Atlantic...) Anyway, thanks, as this is something to look forward to!


Just a brief mention that Cory over at BoingBoing has his review up as well, and seems moderately impressed with it.

Waiting for this thing to come in the mail is going to kill me. A new Stross book is always reason for excitement.


I have to say I love the UK cover, but then I'm a brit with a strange sense of humour.

Will definitely get a copy. If only I has FLBS to support.

- Neil.


Now that I've dropped the cover blurb neutron bomb, don't you want to read it?

Again, there's a new Piers Anthony out about now. Really, Charlie, you have to time yourself better so as not to compete with your betters...


*narf* .. just ordered on, they claim delivery-time 1-3 weeks .. which is looong. Well .. something to look forward to. And then there's this new Pratchett I could finish before ..


I presume it will be CCed when it hits paperback?


Oh god, an amazon delivery again will take over two months to get here, at a 2x premium...
I was so hooked by the reviews, I HAVE to read it now. Better be patient then


For what it's worth, which admittedly ain't much, I like the British cover.


Al @31: not necessarily. The ebook rights are licensed to the dead tree publishers; they get the final say over what happens to them.

(As and when my books go out of print and the rights revert to me, I intend to CC release all of them, but that may take several years.)


I just picked it up, the guy at the store said that your books are the fastest sellers of all their Science Fiction.
I'm about 70 pages in, and I really like it.
the US cover is pretty similar to other modern scifi, but it seems like I'm the target Demo or something but I like that style.


Aside from the cover art, are there any other differences between the UK and US editions?

I ask because I really don't want to wait until January, but I've been bitten before by books that were almost rewritten for the different markets, and my tastes are definitely with the British.

(I'm in New Zealand, some bookstores here will likely carry the US edition, some the UK version)

- Colin


Colin: the British edition is a trade paperback. Also, I've just been working over the copy edits, and a couple of errata that were overlooked in the US edition will be fixed in the British one. Otherwise, it's identical.


Can't wait for Amazon delivery, running to Borders in Penn Plaza... (yes, I've checked their inventory online)


Perhaps it is a culture thing. I'm english, and the UK cover seems superb to me. I can't put my finger on why, but it does something interesting to my head. It might be to do with the book character -- game character switch.


I bought a copy Saturday. (There are advantages to living in a major urban centre.)

My preference is definitely leaning towards the twisted bureaucracy parts, rather than the tech extrapolation parts. (Then again, I am so not the target market for the tech extrapolation parts....)


I have to agree with Noel (wow, Noel, I have you triangulated now) -- the US cover grabs me, and the UK cover takes me a little longer to appreciate. How fascinating.

If only I could afford hardbacks. I'll have to wait a year or so to read it, dammit -- by which time it'll be passé.


I didn't realize it wasn't out yet. I bought it last week in australia.
I really enjoyed it btw.


I'll add another wish for an eBook edition. DRM-free, that is, since I will not touch the vile stuff. I dislike reading on-screen but I do live in Brazil for the moment and it appears the book is marked by a lack of availability here. Well, I'll be in the US in a few weeks....
For the record: the US cover appeals more to me and I'm German. And it was Schneier's comment that most piqued my curiosity in the announcement.

PS: I very much appreciated you traveling tips, being a moderately heavy traveler myself without any recent US experience.


Congratulations sir! IMO, it's your best one yet & I fully expect to see it nominated & doing well in upcoming awards.


I've just discovered (via Marc Andressen's review) your work sir and am halfway through Accelerando. It's breathtaking. Can't wait to get the new one and everything you've done.


Cameron Reilly
CEO, The Podcast Network ( &
Host of Australia's #1 podcast G'Day World (


Charlie, stop that, you're making me drool. According to UPS tracking my copy has arrived in Portland, so it should be delivered sometime tomorrow. I'll have to wait until I get home from work to rip the package open and start devouring it. So no more nagging :-)

Luckily I have plenty of time to read it before next Thursday when I'll ask you to sign it at Powell's.


Checking with a Canadian bookseller, it looks like there may be yet another cover design which reinforces the fact that Canadians continue to reign supreme for boring cover artwork.

The URL:


David: that was the original, pre-marketing-rework, US cover design featured on the Advance Reader Copies. You won't find it retail.


David @46:

Checking with a Canadian bookseller, it looks like there may be yet another cover design which reinforces the fact that Canadians continue to reign supreme for boring cover artwork.

The URL:

Aha, so that's where my local bookstore got the image which is neither of the two covers Charles posted. It's also here:

It might not have the artistic quality or the grab of the two primary covers, but there's something about Perl code that just looks... so right... in conjunction with Charles's name on the cover — even his fiction.

Re immediate acquisition: <AOL>. I will buy this tomor^Wtoday. I'm already unlikely to be in to work before 10:00, another half-hour won't impact my productivity. Being sucked into what promises to be a superb and absorbing tale, OTOH, will have consequences.

Bring the consequences. I'll have a new Stross book to read!
        (skipping and poinging, bookward bound)        
 † Books Inc., in They appear to have received them (HS was listed "Advance Order" yesterday).


Bah. I like the Brit cover better, but I'll have to wait until January for that, and it'll only be a paperback (albeit at the price of the US hardback!)

Alas Forbidden Planet do not have copies in (unlike for Glasshouse), so I will either have to wait 10 days to get a US copy online, or wait for my birthday in January...


I've got to say I like the US cover better. So maybe the marketing guys really do know their audience here. :)

The UK cover is clever, but it says quirky comedy to me. Something along the lines of Dave Barry or Carl Hiaassen.

Though since I haven't read the book yet, I'm not sure which is more appropriate...


US cover fits with pretty much everything else in my collection...


I like the UK Cover (and I'm Brittish...well, Welsh, which is close), but I do love to collect hardbacks!

I can see it's going to be another expensive couple of months :)


Do you know why there's such a long lead time between the release of the paperback in the US (next January, I think) and in the UK? (Sept 2008)?

(Dates from UK, US import)


David: the two publishing schedules (US and UK) are the result of the book being sold to different publishers in their respective countries. In the US, it's published by Ace, an imprint of Penguin Group, and they roll their mass market paperbacks twelve months after the hardcover. In the UK, it was purchased by Orbit, and due to a procedural balls-up they didn't buy it until six months after Ace. Consequently they had to scramble to bring a trade paperback edition out in January, rather than synchronising their first editions. By the time it hits mass market paperback, though, with any luck Orbit and Ace will be publishing simultaneously.

The way to ensure the books come out at exactly the same time on both sides of the pond is for my agent to sell world English language rights to one company. Hint: if she thought she could make more money doing that, she'd do it.

As Prince Otto von Bismarck remarked (paraphrased, from memory): "anyone who enjoys laws or sausages should avoid acquainting themselves with the business of making them." The same goes for books.


Charlie - can you tell us why there's no UK hardback? Is there little demand for hardbacks over here, perhaps? I'm getting tired of paying the shipping costs when I get your books from rather than, but perhaps there's nothing to be done...


Giles: whether or not to do a hardback is a policy decision the publisher makes on the basis of anticipated sales. Right now, the UK is a cut-throat market for hardcovers, and to make matters worse, grey imports from the USA -- aggressively underpriced due to the weak dollar -- undercut domestic hardcovers. Especially if they're doomed to come out three months late, due to the synchronization issues I mentioned in my previous comment. Remember, the UK is a smaller market, so the production/marketing overheads per book sold are substantially higher than in the USA, and despite the cover price being somewhat higher the profit per unit sold is not necessarily any better.

(See also my favourite Bismarck quote.)


Found the only copy of HS locally available yesterday (the window display copy) and am enjoying it immensely. The second-person narrative style is so smooth that you might not even notice it until you're chapters in — and utterly hooked.

Be warned: Reading Halting State in the presence of others will inevitably affect their perception of you when you burst out in involuntary laughter.

Ta to Horton at Books Inc. (who promised to order more copies soonest) for finding the display copy.


Matt@22 I work as a bookseller and from what I've seen, publishers assign street dates to all books but make booksellers adhere to them on only a select few titles (usually for big name authors or major event type books). For all other books we can put them out as soon as we get them in. I received my copy a couple of weeks ago and devoured it. I then ordered in several more copies to handsell.

I have to say, after reading Glasshouse I didn't think you'd top yourself any time soon, but Halting State does it. I really should just stop expecting you to write only a decent novel :)

The only problem I really had with it was that I thought all the innovations you use wouldn't be as prevalent as you assume they will be in 11 years. Eventually, yes, but not that quickly. But then I remember I'm reading fiction so I just shut off my reality lobe for awhile.

As far as the tech goes, I really liked the way you used cell phones as the basis for your distributed network and as the processing power for the VR glasses. Not being a hardcore tech geek I don't know how close we are to something like that, but I could definitely see that happening. And after reading Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End last year it was pretty neat to see essentially the beta version of the VR/overlay tech that he has in it. I definitely want that tech right now!

In any event, kudos on a truly great novel. I sincerely hope that with this you can finally take home your long overdue Hugo and/or Nebula (preferably both).


after reading Glasshouse I didn't think you'd top yourself any time soon

Well there were some pretty depressing scenes in Glasshouse but... oh wait.

My birthday comes next week so I'm leaving it to other people to see if they can find a copy in the UK. If I see a copy I'll have to show some self-restraint and not grab it and run to the till.


So, are the hero and hero-ette up for a sequel?



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on October 2, 2007 2:05 PM.

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