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. 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.
©2010 Hannu Rajaniemi (P)2011 Orion Publishing Group Ltd
Good Novel. Really really interesting - but the first 1/3rd of the novel wasn't quite as much fun as the rest of it. I kept thinking - if the author would focus on the human elements more than the sci fi bit - the novel would become so much better. That first one third did very little scene setting and context/character development.
To his credit, the novel started developing characters more after the first 1/3, but to me, it left some dissatisfaction for me towards the end of the book (hence the lower overall score of 4 rather than 5).
The book itself is about a thief who is in a jail, escapes with help to do another heist. However, instead of heading towards the final heist, it goes on to do a sidequest on a futuristic Mars colony which forms the remaining 2/3rd of the book. It has to do with games, memories, technological manipulation, etc. all done in a very cool way. The author's key writing gift is to continually shift one gear up in the storyline right to the end.
The novel is part of the trilogy and I will definitely look forward to the next book. My only point is that I hope the author doesn't make the start so obscure and without any scene setting the next time.
Thinking Out of the BOX!
Very Creative; Something like 'The Matrix' or 'Inception'
'The Matrix' or 'Inception'
It connects to you .... Especially during '1st person' lines...
Multiple [believable] voices!!
Made me say:
The story from the beginning could do with a more in depth overview of the universe the writer has created. The book is wonderfully read and produced.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
"As always, before the warmind and I shoot each other, I try to make small talk." Jean le Flambeur, centuries-old "criminal mastermind" for whom thieving is both instinct and art and who has pulled off myriad legendary heists, has been incarcerated in a Dilemma Prison run by immortal Archons who want to teach him cooperation via an endless game involving pistols. Despite his repartee, Jean has been shot in the head 14,000 times. Thus he is not unwilling when a beautiful, scar-faced woman called Mieli and her sentient spaceship Perhonen break him out of prison. His liberators are not altruists, for Mieli is under the thumb of a "goddess" who wants to use Jean for some unspecified plan. For his part, Jean needs to return to Mars and the scene of his last big scheme to regain his memories (for some reason, he cannot recall most of his past, including why a master thief like him ended up in prison). On Mars Jean and Mieli enter the Oubliette (deriving from the French word for "forget" and meaning "secret dungeon" in English), a gradually moving city whose denizens wear Watches that measure out their remaining time before they must die and be resurrected as "Quiet" laborers, communicate by sharing co-memories from their exomemory storages, and use a privacy screening "gevulot" to determine what of their experiences they remember and what of their experiences that other people who interact with them remember. Living in the Oubliette is Isidore, a genius detective armed with a smartmatter magnifying glass, a keen mind, and an affinity for mysteries.
In The Quantum Thief (2010), first book in Hannu Rajaniemi's trilogy, all the above (and much more) is possible due to the advanced technology of the future post-human, post-computer, post-science world in which everything is sentient and fractal and nano and quantum: spaceships, bullets, data spheres, clothes, memories, bodies, machines, weapons, smartmatter, q-matter, and so on. Gods are uploaded consciousnesses. Death is temporary. Life is virtual. The lines between human/alien, machine/computer, organic/inorganic, reality/unreality, etc. are all blurry. The body is mutable, disposable, renewable. The mind may be removed from ones "body" and put into another or a "machine" or a "bullet." Memory is uploadable, downloadable, transferable, and malleable.
This is quantum space opera with a delirious vengeance, and the SF sublime is everywhere: "They fall through the wound in the flesh of the city. Synthbio solutions rain around them like blood. And then they are outside in the middle of the forest of the city legs, blinking at the bright daylight." And moments of weird beauty: "The memories are pressed flat like a butterfly beneath the centuries, fragile, and fall apart when I touch them." And catchy defamiliarizing chapter first lines: "Raymonde is having her lunch near the playground when we meet again for the first time."
At his best, Rajaniemi uses the sublime defamiliarizing science fiction future science and technology to explore time, memory, reality, love, games, mysteries, art, and, of course, what is human, as when Mieli is approached by a Time Beggar desperately asking her for a few seconds of her Time (Time is literally money in the Oubliette), or when Isidore visits his Quiet father, whose mind has been put into a giant insectoid body so he can drill rocks with his mouth, consume them, and excrete a cement with which to build a protective city wall he decorates with faces and figures in relief only to have the other Quiet workers smooth them down.
At the same time there are many familiarizing references to old Earth culture: e.g., otaku, Peter Lorre, Lemuel Gulliver, John Carter, Sherlock Holmes, Wells, Proust, Borges, and Gogol. And the novel partly follows a familiar mystery/espionage/superhero plot: "Fighting a cabal of planetary mind-controlling masterminds with a group of masked vigilantes--that's what life should be all about." Along with his usually witty dialogue, Rajaniemi also writes some banal lines, like "you did good" (twice).
I like Jean, Mieli, Perhonen, Raymonde, and Isidore, and Pixil. Each has a different agenda, background, and personality, and each is enjoyable to spend time with. Lots of cool girl power in the novel--Mieli tends to swoop in on her wings when Jean is in a pinch. There are plenty of exciting action scenes featuring a variety of weapons and enhancements put to creative and destructive use: ghost guns, sentient "gogol" bullets, nano missiles, bioorganic killing machines, combat autism programs, smartmatter armor, Q-guns, quantum swords, and so on. At times Rajaniemi may use the tech to do-whatever-he-wants-whenever-he-wants, like many a fantasy author with magic. . . I also think the novel could be clearer about what finally happens, and nearly suspect Rajaniemi of making it seem opaque to seem cool.
A few words on the audiobook production. Cool SF synth music opens the chapters. Rupert Degas reads the novel with aplomb and enthusiasm. Audio effects assist his "raspy, chorus-like voice" of the Gentleman and his mind to mind communication (the equivalent of italics). And Degas does fine machine voices and varied accents (British, American, French) and a neat quantum pixie Pixil. The problem is that his echoey mind to mind communication voice is often too muffled or quiet to hear. I had a devil of a time with the word panopticon.
The Quantum Thief reminds me of Zelazny's first Amber novel crossed with Peter Hamilton's The Dreaming Void by way of Iain Banks' Culture. Although it is compact and clever, and the ending resolves the current situation while pointing ahead to the next book without recourse to a tawdry cliffhanger, I am sorry it is the first book in the trilogy, because I don't know if I have the energy or desire or time to read the other two books.
All I could understand about one hour into the book is the surreal setting and the many nonhuman protagonist. I couldn't understand any of the distorted voices, and only half the normal ones. I'm giving up.
There is a problem with the quality of recording: the different voices are played with so much difference on volume, that listening the book in car is impossible.
"Narration-style enhances this story's 'otherness'"
I've listened to a couple of hundred audiobooks so far, and this one easily falls into my favourite top ten percent.
With an author so conversant with string theory it's hardly surprising that The Quantum Thief presents a series of memorable moments, each building on the other until a satisfyingly symmetrical conclusion is reached
Presenting Jean le Flambeur with a supercilious and hyper-intelligent persona, Degas's performance reflects the 'otherness' of Jean le Flambeur's entire existence, thereby enhancing the story itself
Reflecting the trickiness of humankind's susceptibility to game theory, love and romance, this scientifically satisfying story has post-human Jean le Flambeur co-opted into chasing memories he has deliberately hidden himself
A hard sci-fi story that has twists within twists, a warped view of romance, satisfyingly consistently believable theoretical background and a protagonist battling against near-godlike post-humans, the strongest of which is (or was) himself.
"Rich, complex sci-fi. Great Story. Great Narrator."
A great story that requires some concentration because the world is detailed, complicated and beautifully described. A pinch of detective mystery and political thriller thrown into the sci-fi mix, a really interesting story that romps along . I love books that stand up to repeat listening/reading and this fits the bill (I'm a Hamilton, Banks, Stephenson, Gibson fan, if that helps.) As always, having a first-class reader makes a world of difference and Rupert Degas' performance is brilliant. Highly recommended.
"Reminded me of a 1970's radio play"
I found the 'sound effects' extremely off putting, the voice of the ship was so quiet I had to turn the volume up to get clarity, then the other characters were too loud.
I was disappointed but may just get it on kindle instead
I cannot recall why I purchased this book, but I am so glad I did.
The story took a bit of getting into, since there are no reference points to explain the terms and concepts until you let the story unfold. When I finally got into it I had to hear it all over again. Beautifully read, too. A book that just couldn't work as a film, thank goodness, since you need to let your imagination run to get the best out of it.
"One of the few."
Listen to this carefully. There's a lot of stuff in there that ties together and makes the story. At times it took me to where I was in awe of his work. I loved this book. Think of Peter F Hamilton at his older and best and you have some feeling for how good this is but don't think it's a Hamilton novel because it's not, it's all it's own, all new, all thinking and progressing, amazing depth after depth and one of the few books worth it's 5 start rating.
Kudos to the reader and the production team in putting it together like this. I really hope they find and do more of his work.
This book is not an easy read though. It won't appeal to everyone but if you want depth, ScFi as a story, not a set of facts and beauty then you should go for this one.
"Odd on a couple of levels, but turned out OK"
2 types of oddness to the book.
1st is the strange words and names thrown at you early on. You eventually get used to it all and it's OK.
2nd is the narration, gain is seems strange at first, but you get used to it - In the end I think I like the effects used on voices (although it was a bit off putting at first) and I'm still not sure about the 'jingle' between chapters...
At the end of the day, there is a good story in there, but I feel it was a little lost due to the odd nouns - (was the book translated to English?). It would get 4 stars if I didn't struggle at times.
"Excellent heist book"
A wonderful multilayered adventure with little to no exposition in the best of ways. Really recommended for any sci-fi lovers.
"Overall Excellent, narrator quiet at time."
Takes a little bit to get going but I ended up being blown away. The. World building is incredible and done entirely through show not tell in a way at just works.
The only downsides are: 1) the narration, though fantastic, is a bit quiet. Even at max I couldn't listen to this while in even a moderately noisy place.
2) The Fractal Prince isn't on audible as of writing. Very annoying, hopefully it will come soon.
"A different take on SciFi"
Takes a bit of time to get into, but definately worth the effort. Different in the way that Solaris is from Ringworld. A lot more empahsis on the thought processes and feelings of the characters the 'normal' SciFi.
"Intriguing hard Sci Fi."
It took me a little while to get into this, there are lots of advanced physics concepts and possible future ideas/realities that are assumed and not explained, to the good I think. Once I caught on, it didn't take long for me to be immersed in this far distant future. Once there I was totally involved. You don't need a degree in Q physics, just an imagination and willingness to enter the Thief's reality. I shall definitely revisit this story.
The narrator was amazing. He seems to have an infinite variety of voices, all perfectly matched to character; female and male, foreign and American accents perfect to my ear. I will be listening to more books he voiced, it seems there are plenty to choose from.
I am in awe of the author's ability to imagine a complex possible future, and the narrator's ability to make it easy to comprehend. I wouldn't recommend this to someone looking for lightweight fantasy stuff, but for a listener with a bit of intelligence and no more than an awareness of quantum theory this is an excellent choice. 5 out of 5.
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