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The Quantum Thief

by Hannu Rajaniemi

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Jean le Flambeur (1)

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2,3281036,809 (3.73)85
Fiction. Science Fiction. HTML:

The Quantum Thief is a Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011 Science Fiction & Fantasy title. One of Library Journal's Best SF/Fantasy Books of 2011

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 stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of Mars. Now he's confined inside the Dilemma Prison, where every day he has to get up and kill himself before his other self can kill him.
Rescued by the mysterious Mieli and her flirtatious spacecraft, Jean is taken to the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, where time is currency, memories are treasures, and a moon-turnedsingularity lights the night. What Mieli offers is the chance to win back his freedom and the powers of his old self-in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed.
As Jean undertakes a series of capers on behalf of Mieli and her mysterious masters, elsewhere in the Oubliette investigator Isidore Beautrelet is called in to investigate the murder of a chocolatier, and finds himself on the trail of an arch-criminal, a man named le Flambeur....
Hannu Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief is a crazy joyride through the solar system several centuries hence, a world of marching cities, ubiquitous public-key encryption, people communicating by sharing memories, and a race of hyper-advanced humans who originated as MMORPG guild members. But for all its wonders, it is also a story powered by very human motives of betrayal, revenge, and jealousy. It is a stunning debut.

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» See also 85 mentions

English (97)  French (2)  Finnish (2)  Spanish (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (103)
Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
Series Info/Source: This is the first book in the Jean le Falmbeur series. I borrowed this on audiobook from the library.

Thoughts: My husband and I were listening to this on audiobook while driving and neither of us really liked it. It jumps around too much, too much info-dumping, and the characters are lackluster at best. The narrator also had a very monotone voice which was hard to listen to and stay engaged with.

The story starts with Jean le Flambeur being trapped in a quantum prison where he is being replicated. He is rescued by Mieli who needs him to steal something. We then jump to a different character (whose name I can't remember right now). The story felt fractured because you spend a bit of time with Jean and then a lot of time with the other characters and then suddenly you are back to Jean again.

We didn't like either Jean or Mieli, both characters did not seem to have any depth to them and were very standoffish. We also didn't find the story very engaging. My husband mentioned he was a tad curious about what Jean had stolen to get put into prison, but beyond that they story just wasn't engaging.

I had borrowed this from the library so I ended up just returning it. After listening to a few hours of it (about 25% of the way in) neither of us wanted to listen to more. Which is kind of a bummer because I was excited to read this.

My Summary (3/5): Overall this wasn't for me (or my husband). The poor narration quality was part of this. That coupled with the way the story jumped around, the un-engaging story, and stiff characters just made this a no go. I was disappointed because I was really looking forward to reading this. We stopped at 25% of the way through the story and returned the book. ( )
  krau0098 | Feb 15, 2024 |
The world-building that Rajaniemi undertakes in this book is so ambitious that it ultimately undercuts the story. This is particularly true at the end, where the matrioshka-doll-type worlds becomes confusing. I suppose that is part of the point: a post-singularity society by its very nature would be confusing. But we are a pre-singularity readership and I had a hard time absorbing the fullness of Rajaniemi's vision. This is a pity, because the author created characters that were engaging and believable and likable. ( )
  Treebeard_404 | Jan 23, 2024 |
I'm really conflicted about this book. I actually feel very good talent of creation, not everyone can make something like THIS and keep it together long enough. With enough details and right amount of crazy new words and tech.

This world is ALIEN. From the beginning, in the middle, till the end. And it's consistent in its alien ways throughout the whole book. None of the characters are likable. None of them. Not even a single one. World conceptions even worse. They are taken beyond transhuman and far out. And they mean it. For me it's more like nauseating psychological horror than sci-fi.

And what? From the first third I desperately wanted for author to continue, grow, achieve, change, expand. And I want it after finishing. There is too much potential and talent to waste. ( )
  WorkLastDay | Dec 17, 2023 |
Beautiful prose by a skillful writer is quickly overshadowed by a story too confusing for it's own good ( )
  hubrisinmotion | Nov 14, 2023 |
I'm by no means a sci-fi fan but this book got me hooked, in great part because of the Arsene Lupin background and characters. The Lupin series was by far my favourite when growing up as a teen in France and I still have my entire collection, having read each one of them and subsequently dragged them along around the world with the rest of my library. It's also very clever and whilst it's got the usual sci-fi language and translation of words and concepts is necessary, it didn't bother me because there's suspense, an interesting (if somewhat weird, but eh, it's sci-fi) story and great characters. I will probably look out for the next instalment, when I'm ready for it. ( )
  jean-sol | Mar 2, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 97 (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 (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rajaniemi, Hannuprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brick, ScottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Degas, RupertNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holicki, IreneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juhász, ViktorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
`... 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
Dedication
This is for Nana
First words
As always, before the warmind and I shoot each other, I try to make small talk.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
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Information from the Finnish Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC
Fiction. Science Fiction. HTML:

The Quantum Thief is a Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011 Science Fiction & Fantasy title. One of Library Journal's Best SF/Fantasy Books of 2011

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 stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of Mars. Now he's confined inside the Dilemma Prison, where every day he has to get up and kill himself before his other self can kill him.
Rescued by the mysterious Mieli and her flirtatious spacecraft, Jean is taken to the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, where time is currency, memories are treasures, and a moon-turnedsingularity lights the night. What Mieli offers is the chance to win back his freedom and the powers of his old self-in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed.
As Jean undertakes a series of capers on behalf of Mieli and her mysterious masters, elsewhere in the Oubliette investigator Isidore Beautrelet is called in to investigate the murder of a chocolatier, and finds himself on the trail of an arch-criminal, a man named le Flambeur....
Hannu Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief is a crazy joyride through the solar system several centuries hence, a world of marching cities, ubiquitous public-key encryption, people communicating by sharing memories, and a race of hyper-advanced humans who originated as MMORPG guild members. But for all its wonders, it is also a story powered by very human motives of betrayal, revenge, and jealousy. It is a stunning debut.

.

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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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