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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Recently read: "The Quantum Thief" by Hannu Rajaniemi

The Quantum Thief

I've been waiting for this book every since I've heard rumors of it, and the author (I first heard of him in a blog comment from Charlie Stross).  I even bought it in hardcover instead of Kindle, since I wanted a permanent copy.  I enjoyed it a lot...

...but I wanted to love it.

In a way, the book's plot is a caper novel (interesting, since I read Richard Stark's "Comeback" immediately before it) with the protagonist an amnesiac thief, so it's not that it's a difficult read from that standpoint.  From a world building standpoint, it's very confusing for an initial read.

The book opens with Jean le Flambeur being confined in a Dilemma Prison, where he is playing the Prisoner's Game daily, and has been shot numerous times.  He is broken out of prison by Mieli, an Oort solider, and taken to the Oubliette, a city on Mars that is moving across the surface (and home to the only baseline human population left in the solar system).  He is given the chance to win his freedom if he steals something for Mieli's boss (one of the Sobornost, part of the posthuman upload collective)which he failed to do before.

On Mars, time is a currency, and memories are held tight, and gogol piracy (cloning minds and enslaving them for specific tasks) is a problem. In the Oubliette, we have Isidore Beautrelet, a young (ten Martian years) architecture student and amateur detective, who must try and figure out who Jean le Flambeur is, and what he is doing on Mars.  Isidore is also dating a zocu, who are posthuman warriors (descended from members of MMORPG guilds).

This all can be very confusing, and it's the last book someone should give to a new SF reader.  Rajaniemi throws the reader into the story, and expects him/her to pick up the background from spare clues (most of which are just naming of items).  This book is sort of the anit-infodump example.  There is a handy glossary on Wikipedia, though I think it would have been nice to have included it in the book.

There will be two more books to come, and I'll certainly read them (though depending on the time between releases, I may have to do a re-read of this one), and I look forward to seeing how Rajaniemi develops.  This is a good book, I just don't think it's a great one.

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