Title: The Quantum Thief
Author: Hannu Rajaniemi
Release Date: September 2010
Reviewed by: Andy Venn
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
Jean le Flambeur is a post-human criminal, mind burglar, confidence artist and trickster. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his exploits are known throughout the Heterarchy - from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to steal their thoughts, to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of the Moving Cities of Mars.The blurb and the press release for this novel tells the potential reader what this book is about. It is about two men. Jean De Flambeur, a thief who made a mistake and ended up in a prison that was set to educate him about himself, cooperation, and compromise. Before he can learn all the lessons he is helped to escape by Mieli and her sentient ship.
Except that Jean made one mistake. Now he is condemned to play endless variations of a game-theoretic riddle in the vast virtual jail of the Axelrod Archons - the Dilemma Prison - against countless copies of himself.
Jean's routine of death, defection and cooperation is upset by the arrival of Mieli and her spidership, Perhonen. She offers him a chance to win back his freedom and the powers of his old self - in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed . . .
The Quantum Thief is a dazzling hard SF novel set in the solar system of the far future - a heist novel peopled by bizarre post-humans but powered by very human motives of betrayal, revenge and jealousy. It is a stunning debut.
And then there is Isidore, a student and detective. He seems to look at life as a mystery that needs an answer.
And if you want to know more then read the full blurb for yourself, or read the book. Because I have read the book and I am not sure that I found an answer.
This is a quite fantastic story, in all senses of the word. It draws a world, or even worlds, that are so colourful and rich in their imagery that I was almost staggered. The characters are deep and complex. And the science went way over my head.
And that was the problem. I have read science fiction and fantasy novels for the better part of 40 years, and in that time I have read some really complex books. There are, generally, names and words that are pretty unpronounceable. I get over this by just recognising them, not by trying to mentally pronounce them. But this book made me reach for the dictionary, and then Google. There were a lot of words that were central to the story and I needed to know what they meant. I don’t consider myself an idiot but I felt like one at times as I ploughed through the encyclopedias just to find out what a word was just in case I was vital to the story.
I am sure that I will have to read this book again because I know that some of the story went right over my head. It took me back some years to one of the first science fiction books I ever read, Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles. It almost put me off of the genre for good. If this book had been my first I might have turned to reading crime fiction.
But the imagery drew me in. It painted vivid images in my head that were better than any movie. I will read this book again, I need to understand it.
If you are going to buy it sit with it in the shop and read at least 10 pages before you do. If I had I might not have bought it as sometimes the challenges are just too great. It is weird, deep, complex and very intelligent, just maybe a little too intelligent for me.
About Andy Venn
I'm Andy Venn, aka Giant68 due to being 6'8" tall. I have been reading science fiction for 35 years since picking up the Lensman series. And fantasy since I pinched "Lost Worlds" by Clarke Ashton Smith from my uncle. I read both in, pretty much, equal measures. I write a blog occasionally, containing the whimsical, or bad tempered, meanderings of my mind at http://giant68.blogspot.com. Go and have a look, you'll find out all about me, and Lord knows I need the followers! Or email me at email@example.com.