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The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

The Quantum Thief (edition 2011)

by Hannu Rajaniemi

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1,112647,432 (3.72)51
Title:The Quantum Thief
Authors:Hannu Rajaniemi
Info:Orion Publishing Co (2011), Paperback
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:science fiction

Work details

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

  1. 10
    Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny (Lucy_Skywalker)
  2. 00
    Glasshouse by Charles Stross (ianturton)
    ianturton: A similar world of interchangeable bodies/minds

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English (59)  Finnish (2)  French (2)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (64)
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
Wow, that was some ride. Far-future weirdness, a great detective story, explosions, and heart. Great characters. I hated to put it down, and can't wait for the next one. ( )
  kingmob2 | Apr 8, 2015 |
A satisfyingly rich worldscape is presented, so dense that it’s possible to immediately get disoriented and be tempted to walk away from this book, but for readers who opt to enjoy the ride cresting on the top of the fast-moving waves, and not worrying too much about the depths below, there’s a terrific thrill in store. While there is a recognizable whodunnit mystery plot at it’s core, the juiciest bits are all the posthuman concepts introduced. Or rather, never formally introduced: Rajaniemi’s style is to drop ideas, reference backstory, factions, etc conversationally on the reader as if you were as familiar with all of it as the citizens of the story. This can sometimes take many dozens or even hundreds of pages to gather enough exposition (often inferred from context) to explain, making this book a good candidate for a multiple-read approach in order to fully appreciate- perhaps with a glossary or wiki near at hand. Fortunately, it also has plenty of fast-paced action sequences and consistently well-crafted language to make a re-read welcome. The central theme is reminiscent of Plato’s Cave: In a society where every thought and every personality is digitized and mediated by ubiquitous personal encryption, what constitutes reality, ownership, freedom, or memory? In this utopia, personal privacy is so highly regarded that conversations, interactions, and even observations of an individual can be erased from all memories if that individual desires- even retroactively. Of course, such a system becomes an immediate target for corruption, so plenty of dramatic possibilities here. ( )
  SciFi-Kindle | Feb 9, 2015 |
To be consistent with other rankings this should be a 5/5.

I have just re-read this book, having mostly forgotten what it is about, and really really enjoyed it.

At the science level, humanity is still confined to the solar system (if one calls the Oort cloud part of the solar system). Some humans are wildly augmented, but most are still DNA based biological forms as nearly as I can tell. Most of the story takes place on Mars. The book is heavy on mathematics and physics: prisoner's dilemma, quantum entanglement, and cryptography all add to the plot.

At the political level, there are multiple factions, one of which may or may not be responsible for the disappearance of Jupiter. Mars is a reasonably closed world, unwelcoming to foreigners, although there is a colony of zoku, political refugees from inter-planetary war, descended from a colony of gamers.

At the personal level, Mieli is a native of Oort, extorted into rescuing Jean le Flambeur from prison. Jean himself is a legendary thief and once resident of Mars. To earn his freedom, he has to help Mieli find something that he has hidden from himself, for reasons that he has forgotten. Meanwhile on Mars, Isadore helps the Gentleman solve a murder involving the taste of chocolate. Little do any of them expect to become entangled with each other, and with conspiracies that extend throughout Martian society and possibly even beyond. ( )
  david_c | Jan 24, 2015 |
Don't you hate the “As You Know” trope? They are always so clunky, those paragraphs about ...insert SF tech name here..., they feel like quotes from some bad textbooks. I know I hate them, so I can't join the other reviewers in the whole “you don't understand what's going on for 50% of the book” rant. Then again, I liked “Dive into Python” much more than any other book on any other programming language ever, so...

“The Quantum Thief” is clever, but not too clever, so there's no point in being afraid of it. As it happens with all references, you'll enjoy the book much more if you get them (and in this case, the references are from cryptography, for example), but you won't die if you don't get every single one.

The book rushes you through countless action scenes, peppering them with interludes and pieces of ideas. It would be silly to expect deep characters here, and there indeed aren't any, but that's fine.

I'd say this book is a good entertainment for a few hours and it leaves you with a little something to think about or discuss. ( )
1 vote tenacious_nixie | Jan 6, 2015 |
This is a hard book. Not as in it's necessarily 'hard' scifi. It's just unforgiving on the reader.

I really enjoyed this while I was reading it, but all the way through I felt like I just wasn't getting the hang of it, that more than half of the content and necessary plot was going over my head. I've let it sit for a few weeks and that's only increased. You know that old thing about how you don't really understand something unless you can explain it to someone else? I really didn't understand The Quantum Thief.

Having said that, I really enjoyed it! And sort of loved the concepts he was playing with. Even if I found the plot incomprehensible at (lots of) times, the world was so vibrant and the story so fast paced that I kept going anyway. The characters were bright and contrasting, the prose was good and overall I've got a good impression of the book even though I couldn't summarise it to save myself. Especially the end, I was doing really well right up until the end!

Rajaniemi has a good wiki on his website and my partner raced through all three in the course of a few weeks and was able to break down some larger level concepts to help me get the hang of the world and the major players. Things like understanding how the Zoku and the Sobernost work and how they contrast against one another.

I wonder whether some of my difficulties were with the format I was encountering it through (audiobook) and I'm tempted to either re-read this one or do the rest of the series in paperback rather than audio to see if having it in my hands to flip back and forth through and chew where necessary might help. Note that at no point have I considered not finishing the series - this is not offputtingly hard, it's enticingly hard. ( )
  heaven_star | Oct 20, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 59 (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 ...'

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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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