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The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

The Quantum Thief

by Hannu Rajaniemi

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1,265686,244 (3.75)53
Title:The Quantum Thief
Authors:Hannu Rajaniemi
Info:Tor Books (no date), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:science fiction, hard science fiction, challenging, detective, dense, future sociey, future society, mystery, prisoner's dilemma, prisons, technology

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The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

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English (63)  Finnish (2)  French (2)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (68)
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
I expected to like this more than I did. Maybe it's that I'm not familiar enough with quantum theory to really appreciate aspects of it. I felt somewhat the same way regarding Catherine Asaro's "The Quantum Rose" - the plot is supposed to illustrate the behavior of quantum particles, but to me it just seemed like a fantasy novel.
Still, I don't think my issues with the book really had to do with the math. I found the continual present tense it's written in distancing.
It's also an introduction to a very complex world, with tons of interesting and very alien tech, different cultures, even different levels of reality. It has a lot of characters. Introducing all of these smoothly; letting a reader slide into the world without didactic explanations, while still letting the reader know the essentials, is a difficult task - and one that I didn't feel was always successfully executed. I like the lack of overt explanation, but there were moments where I was confused, or just couldn't fully picture what was going on due to lack of information. This also applies to the main character, a man who can't remember significant portions of his memory and past. It can be hard to get to know a character who doesn't even know himself. More in-depth characterization in general would have been good, especially considering that so much of the plot has to do with questions of identity (who are "you" if who you are can be downloaded, edited, transferred...?)
These things aside, this is still quite a good book, especially for a debut novel. Once I started to get to know the world and its functioning, it got pretty interesting. I assume a sequel is on the way... ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
One of those books that shows that hard Science Fiction is not at all dead. Quite brilliant plotting and storytelling. Totally recommended. ( )
  Superenigmatix | Jan 16, 2016 |
This could have gotten 5 stars from me but it was just too confusing in the end. I'm a sucker for gadgetry and crazy ideas about future societies. This book was full of them. The first chapter completely blew me away but then as it got deeper and deeper I started to get more and more confused. The switching back and forth from first to third person threw me off sometimes and listening to it on audio may have increased that confusion.

The other thing was that the narrator is the narrator from the Dune audio books so I kept feeling like I was in the Dune universe (which really isn't a bad thing, just confusing).

I would definitely read more from this author but would probably avoid the audio so that I can back up easier if I get confused.

Last little note. One of the main characters names (Isadore) sounds very feminine to me (an American) so I thought the character was a woman repeatedly until I finally got used to it. ( )
  ragwaine | Jun 10, 2015 |
I like to know the meaning of the sentences I read and the definitions of all the words in them. That is not possible in this book, and at first I did not like what I was reading, but resistance was futile and I wandered on. I am very glad that I did. The chaos of fantasy physics and undefined terms pulls you in to a matrix of fascinating complexity and mystery. This is not a Perry Mason tale translated onto an alien planet. It is pure poetry and serious sensory overload. After I catch my breath, I’ll try the second book in the series. ( )
  drardavis | May 22, 2015 |
Overall, an excellent book. The action is fast-paced, the characters are enjoyable, and the future societies are delightful. It's so refreshing to see a book that posits very different technology, and that technology is actually the foundation of an equally different society, with different ways for individuals to interact. And this isn't wooly science -- I felt like I was in the right mind-frame for this book after having picked up Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos and reading a couple of chapters on the basics of quantum mechanics.

My only quibbles are relatively minor. Firstly, the pacing was a little too fast; I felt I was still towards the middle of the book at the last page. Another thing is that the characters always felt just a little removed -- there were several emotional arcs that seemed to fade in and out a little, and a couple of emotional payoffs/gut-punches that didn't have the right impact, as they didn't feel earned.

That being said, I enjoyed the book and I'm very much looking forward to the sequel. ( )
  oscillate_wildly | May 16, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)

Rajaniemi’s pacy debut novel is set in a far future where both Jupiter and Phobos have been turned into suns in the aftermath of a war between the godlike Sobornost, who control most of the inner solar system, and the Zoku, now exiled to Mars from their Saturnian home.

On Mars all off-world tech is proscribed. The city called the Oubliette is constantly on the move, built on platforms which change their relative position as it is carried across Hellas Basin on vast articulated legs. Rajaniemi does not fetishise this creation as many another author would. Far from being almost a character in its own right the city is merely an exotic backdrop for his story, not its focus.

In the Oubliette, interactions between people (and buildings) are mediated by technology known as exomemory which captures every thought, dream and action. A filtering system known as gevulot acts as a privacy screen but is opened for speech and donation of information packets called co-memories.

The city’s inhabitants all carry Watches which store the Time they use as money. When your Time runs out, death follows. Resurrection Men decant memories and implant them in a new body in which to serve the city as one of the Quiet till enough credit has been accrued to live normally again. On occasion criminals dubbed gogol pirates deliberately kill in order to steal the deceased’s memories and enslave the minds. This is anathema to anyone from the Oubliette (but philosophically it surely differs from being Quiet only in degree.) Tzadikkim, a vigilante-type group with enhanced powers, act as an informal police.

The narrative is shared between the first person account of Jean le Flambeur, the quantum thief of the title, and the third person viewpoints of an Oortian, Mieli, who kicks the novel off by springing Jean from an unusual prison round Saturn, and the somewhat too intuitive detective Isodore Beautrelet. Both Jean and Mieli have (rarely used) Sobornost enhancements. In addition, several Interludes fill in backstory and -ground.

The text can be dense at times. Rajaniemi deploys technological terminology with a flourish; qdots, ghostguns, qupting, Bose-Einstein Condensate ammunition, quantum entanglement rings, qubits, but these can be allowed to wash over any technophobic reader prepared to follow the flow.

By implication Rajaniemi emphasises the importance of memory, not only in the idea of exomemory or the uploading/decanting of personality but also as a component of individual identity. Jean le Flambeur has hidden his past from himself and has no recall of it until others restore it bit by bit via gevulot exchanges.

Rajaniemi’s Finnish origins are most revealed by some of the names he uses. Mieli’s spidership is called Perhonen - butterfly - and he slips in a Finnish expletive in the guise of an Oortian god. There are also borrowings from Japanese, Hebrew and Russian and a subtle Sherlock Holmes reference.

“The Quantum Thief” is bursting with ideas and there are sufficient action/battle scenes to slake any thirst for vicarious violence but sometimes it seems as if incidents are present in order to fill in background rather than being necessary to the plot. The motivations of some of the characters are obscure and despite the prominence of gevulot in the Oubliette, conversations and interactions seem to be more or less unaltered in comparison to our familiar world, though had Rajaniemi presented them otherwise they may have been unintelligible.

The denouement brings all the threads together satisfyingly while the final Interlude sheds additional light on the proceedings and sets up possible scenarios for sequels - for which there will likely be an avid audience.
added by jackdeighton | editInterzone 230, Jack Deighton

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hannu Rajaniemiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brick, ScottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holicki, IreneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juhász, ViktorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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`... there comes a time when you cease to know yourself amid all these changes, and that is very sad. I feel at present as the man must have felt who lost his shadow ...'

Maurice Leblanc, The Escape of Arsène Lupin
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Book description
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. 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.
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Broken free from a nightmarish distant-future prison by a mysterious woman who offers him his life back if he will complete the ultimate heist he left unfinished, con man Jean le Flambeur is pursued in worlds where people communicate through shared memories.… (more)

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