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The Quantum Magician (2018)

by Derek Künsken

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
21211105,186 (3.67)9
"An audacious con job, scintillating future technology, and meditations on the nature of fractured humanity" - Yoon Ha Lee   "Technology changes us--even our bodies--in fundamental ways, and Kunsken handles this wonderfully" - Cixin Liu   THE ULTIMATE HEIST Belisarius is a Homo quantus, engineered with impossible insight. But his gift is also a curse--an uncontrollable, even suicidal drive to know, to understand. Genetically flawed, he leaves his people to find a different life, and ends up becoming the galaxy's greatest con man and thief.  But the jobs are getting too easy and his extraordinary brain is chafing at the neglect. When a client offers him untold wealth to move a squadron of secret warships across an enemy wormhole, Belisarius jumps at it. Now he must embrace his true nature to pull off the job, alongside a crew of extraordinary men and women. If he succeeds, he could trigger an interstellar war... or the next step in human evolution.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
One of the better Storybundle offerings a clever working of the crime/con genre into an SF setting. I never quite got mu head around the geography of space, but it never really mattered. Some time in the past humanity splintered into various factions which modified themselves (not always willingly) along the ethos that appeared to best suit them at the time. But as always the future never heard the message and now there's a melange of tribes some of whom are more 'normal' and some accepting of their status, and other less so.

And with all such modifications, some are more successful than others. Our hero is one such dissatisfied construct, intended to be a mathematical genius to help the banking corporations run their sphere of influence none of the community really grasp the importance of their tasks preferring to study the mysteries of the universe, but he struggles to engage in the trance states required, but uses his powers to run complex confidence tricks requiring every bit of his grasp of multiple variables. These have usually been somewhat small scale, casino scams and the like. But he's approached by someone from an african collective offering him the most complex job he's ever run - rather than scamming a few people here and there, they need to move 12 spaceships across a border without anyone knowing. They've discovered a clever technological trick and need to get the invention home without alerting the other powers. This requires a bigger team and a good third of the book is just gathering the appropriate troops and introducing the lines of subterfuge he's going to be running. This is where is loses it's way a little, as the author knows where the betrayals will happen and co-incidentally that's just where there is a back-up i place.

It doesn't actually come across as a heist particularly because there's a lot of focus on the technology and interactions between the characters. The initial single character focus is occasionally lost which detracts form the effectiveness. But it's well paced and cleverly put together. The religious AI is a particularly nice touch.

Enjoyable that I may seek out other books in the universe, this one came to a full closure, so they aren't sequels as such. ( )
  reading_fox | May 7, 2022 |
I read this serialized in Analog. The far-future human race is subdivided into several subspecies. They make sense in context and fill the novel with some strange and disturbing images. Homo Quantus is like an attempt to make super-Vulcans out of people. When Arjona goes into the fugue it is clearly a different experinece but rendered in familiar terms to make it real. The other subspecies are given their own voices as well. The sfnal elements don't detract from the story.
It is a fun world to visit. ( )
  JoshEnglish | Mar 25, 2022 |
This was another one of my series-sampling audio listens, to see if I might want to pursue it in print someday. The answer: no, please, no!

Audio Narration
The narrator is T. Ryder Smith. He did ok, but wasn’t a personal favorite. His regular narration voice reminded me of a not-very-nice person I have known in real life, so I think there was an entirely unfair association going on in my head that kept getting triggered by his tone of voice and his reading style. It didn't help that both this person I knew and the main character in this book told a lot of lies.

The only tangible complaint I had was with the way he sloooowed. down. the. speech. soooo. much when a character was in a “savant” or “fugue” state, or for a character speaking through a speech synthesizer. It did successfully convey their altered state, but was annoying to listen to. I sped up the playback speed, but that doesn’t really help for a variable speed situation. I became used to the faster speed of the normal text, so the slower speeds for the relevant character dialogue still felt very slow by comparison.

Story
The main character, Belisarius, is a “Homo quantus”, an engineered species given exceptional computational abilities. Although he does use his skills, he has rejected his people because he believes mistakes were made with him in particular, and with the Homo quantus concept in general. To try to keep his overactive mind under control, he does various jobs as a “confidence man”, the more challenging the better. Near the beginning of the story, he’s asked to help transport a bunch of warships through a guarded wormhole. He knows the mission will be nearly impossible, even for him, but he recruits several people who have all sorts of interesting skills and personalities and sets up a plan to utilize all of their areas of expertise. Of course, the inevitable problem is that not all of them share the same motivations or goals.

I had trouble focusing on this story. I didn’t care much about the characters, wasn’t invested in the heist plot, got tired of the heavy-handed philosophizing (especially the nature of divinity stuff which I feel has been done to death), got tired of all the lying, and was annoyed by the romance even though it was admittedly a small part of the plot. I had to constantly remind myself to pay attention to the audiobook and not space out instead.

Some of the characters introduced by the author were pretty creative though, and I did occasionally laugh at some of the humor. I rather enjoyed the bits with Marie and Stills in particular, which maybe doesn’t say much for my refinement, and Matthew was sometimes amusing. The Numen/Puppet stuff mostly made me cringe. Also, I don’t have much personal experience with or knowledge about autism, so maybe I’m way off base, but I felt like some of Belisarius’ attitudes came across as pretty offensive and I wasn’t always sure if that was supposed to be just the character or if it was the author too.

I’m rating this at 2.5 stars for the sake of the parts I did enjoy, but rounding down to 2 stars on Goodreads due to my over-all difficulty getting through it. ( )
  YouKneeK | Sep 13, 2021 |
It's a bit heavy on the science jargon since the main character is a human with like a supercomputer brain. Kunsken could have lessened the science jargon a bit since it’s pretty much all pseudoscience like the kind you find in sci-fi tv shows. Honestly it’s been hard to track the flow of the story with constant babble of science jargon and numbers. ( )
  ryvaut | Jul 10, 2020 |
@antao I really don’t understand the reason for all your scientific criticism of this book. Quantum mechanics is not in even straight forward for the scientists who study it. This is fiction, and fiction means made up, not real. I have a base understanding of the quantum world and maybe not even that, but I love sci-fi, most types, but mostly just good stories and this is one hell of a story with great characters. If someone was writing a book about tennis but said tha the characters were playing the game with cricket bats I would call them out and read until I discover that’s what’s going on. But for 99% of people who read sci-fi the science doesn’t have to 100%, it is after all fiction and make believe ( )
  SakiBergh | Jun 8, 2020 |
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"An audacious con job, scintillating future technology, and meditations on the nature of fractured humanity" - Yoon Ha Lee   "Technology changes us--even our bodies--in fundamental ways, and Kunsken handles this wonderfully" - Cixin Liu   THE ULTIMATE HEIST Belisarius is a Homo quantus, engineered with impossible insight. But his gift is also a curse--an uncontrollable, even suicidal drive to know, to understand. Genetically flawed, he leaves his people to find a different life, and ends up becoming the galaxy's greatest con man and thief.  But the jobs are getting too easy and his extraordinary brain is chafing at the neglect. When a client offers him untold wealth to move a squadron of secret warships across an enemy wormhole, Belisarius jumps at it. Now he must embrace his true nature to pull off the job, alongside a crew of extraordinary men and women. If he succeeds, he could trigger an interstellar war... or the next step in human evolution.

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Belisarius is a Homo quantus, engineered with impossible insight. But his gift is also a curse—an uncontrollable, even suicidal drive to know, to understand. Genetically flawed, he leaves his people to find a different life, and ends up becoming
the galaxy’s greatest con man and thief.

But the jobs are getting too easy and his extraordinary brain is chafing at the neglect. When a client offers him untold wealth to move a squadron of secret warships across an enemy wormhole, Belisarius jumps at it. Now he must embrace his true nature to pull off the job, alongside a crew of extraordinary men and women.

If he succeeds, he could trigger an interstellar war… or the next step in human evolution.
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