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The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

The Quantum Thief (edition 2012)

by Hannu Rajaniemi

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950479,071 (3.74)44
Title:The Quantum Thief
Authors:Hannu Rajaniemi
Info:Tor Science Fiction (2012), Edition: Reprint, Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library, Star Base Andromeda Book Discussions
Tags:science fiction, SBA Book Discussion, hard sf, read2013

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The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

2010 (6) 2011 (7) ebook (23) fiction (91) Finland (5) finnish (5) finnish-scifi (5) future (5) hard sf (9) Kindle (19) Mars (15) mystery (6) novel (10) own (6) read (17) read in 2011 (12) read in 2012 (9) read in 2013 (7) science fiction (254) sf (56) sff (9) signed (6) singularity (7) space opera (7) speculative fiction (8) thieves (9) to-read (49) transhumanism (8) unread (10) wishlist (7)
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    Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny (Lucy_Skywalker)
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    Glasshouse by Charles Stross (ianturton)
    ianturton: A similar world of interchangeable bodies/minds

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English (43)  Finnish (2)  Hungarian (1)  French (1)  All languages (47)
Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
What is it about physicists and mathematicians writing some of the best science fiction lately? Hannu Rajaniemi's Jean Le Flambeur series takes the Gentleman Thief archetype to completely new realms. I first listened to the audiobook (then ran out and got the hardcover), and came to find that in order to keep up you must not listen casually; you must listen with all your concentration, something Rajaniemi shares with the likes of Patrick Rothfuss. The storytelling is tight with no wasted words, is poetic and colorful, but manages to reference advanced physics concepts and technology in a way that's accessible regardless of your level of education or familiarity with the ideas. After all, if, as Arthur C. Clarke supposed, if any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, why should it be spoken of in a way that only those with science backgrounds should understand? Though you never get the feeling that he's "dumbed it down" for a wide audience. And the twists and reveals filled me with wonder. I thought over the ending for days, and would find myself grinning thinking of it. It also provided hours of speculation and discussion with my husband who read it after me. I don't normally tell friends to bump their reading backlog to check out a new book, but this one is well worth it.
  mizami | Jan 11, 2014 |
Many science fiction stories are human interest topics set to a relatively familiar background which take little introduction. Hannu Rajaniemi pushes the boundaries out by using terms and concepts which aren't immediately understandable. This to me is a more interesting (and could I say valid?) view of the way our future may develop. This of course made the story difficult to follow at times so it would have been helpful if he had included a glossary to help readers understand the unknown terms he uses.

I really enjoyed Quantum Thief and I'm looking forward to reading the next title in the series. The idea of a thief storing his secrets so even he can't find them, the adventures he has on the way, along with an interesting range of different categories of beings and superb concepts makes for great science fiction reading. ( )
  philiphk | Dec 9, 2013 |
The worlds they inhabited were so different from ours that I times I found it hard to relate. ( )
1 vote gregandlarry | Sep 27, 2013 |
Author Hannu Rajaniemi is smart. As in, he is Mensa smart. With a Ph.D. in string theory and another in mathematics, the founder of a think tank that provides business services using artificial intelligence, he is working with subject matter that just a generation ago was the stuff of science fiction. I almost expect to find him in the pages of Asimov’s Foundation series, using math, statistics, and artificial intelligence to keep civilization alive.

His vision of the future—a place where civilization has filled the solar system, fractured and fought, and still survives—is mind blowing. If you’re looking for loosey goosey Star Wars style space opera, look elsewhere. If you want a story that takes a serious and creative look at the future of our institutions, technology, and cultures, then you’re going to love The Quantum Thief.

Rajaniemi smashes through the world we know and leaps into a universe extrapolated several centuries in the future. We see MMORPG clans developed into highly advanced clans, but still retaining the geeky LARP activities as a throwback to the past (and our present). There are vigilantes that seem to take their inspiration from Jewish lore as they fight crime behind masks. And virtual social networks—similar to Facebook and Myspace—that are even more integral to life than they are today, and perhaps even more pernicious in their tendencies. There is a master behind the machine, a master that may not be worthy of trust. Social networks are just steps towards a Benthamite panopticon, not unlike John Twelve Hawks’ fledgling vision in The Fourth Realm trilogy.

In addition to a radical and visionary view of the future, Rajaniemi’s novel rests on a fantastic story. The Quantum Thief opens on Jean Le Flambeur, an illustrious and infamous thief and conman, undergoing reform in the Dilemma Prison. He is rescued by Mieli, a savior with a hidden agenda. He soon finds himself in the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, hunting down his own missing memories, hidden for a purpose he cannot recall. As he follows the clues he has left to his past, others are also on the hunt, and time is running out, literally. In the Oubliette, a “place of forgetting,” time itself is currency, and citizens live forever. But beneath the surface, plots within plots are unfolding, conspiracies waiting to be exposed.

At 330 pages, The Quantum Thief is not long, but is fulfilling. The prose, while occasionally cryptic, is beautiful. I frequently ran into words and concepts that I could not understand without an appeal to Google and Wikipedia, but they never got in the way of the story. In fact, while I could have read The Quantum Thief without reference to outside material, finding the root meaning of the concepts Rajaniemi inserts in his novel brought another level of understanding and hinted at deep and unspoken back stories to the characters, to history, and to the novel itself. Eventually, each reference is explained; however, he never shoves an information dump down the reader’s throat. The story is as important as the concepts, but we discover it gradually, learning just what we need to know, and no more or less.

The Quantum Thief is a brilliant piece of science fiction, as well as a great novel, and it should rank with Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is Harsh Mistress, and Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination as one of the great novels of hard science fiction.

It’s a brilliant debut, and it is only the first of a trilogy. I look forward to reading the rest of the series. ( )
  publiusdb | Aug 22, 2013 |
This book is bona-fide weird, although that is not necessarily a bad thing. Existence has lost its physical touch, and a thief is more or less copied and pasted out of prison to sort out the issues of a space colony, but for that, he has first to collect the bits and bobs of his self, which he has squirreled away for his own safety. Interesting, fun, but not for the reality-grounded. ( )
  ernst.schnell | Jul 25, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 43 (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

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Hannu Rajaniemiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brick, ScottNarratorsecondary 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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