“The Quantum Thief” – Hannu Rajaniemi
[Image from Google].
Alright – there will be spoilers because to be perfectly honest with you, dear readers, I have no idea what it was that I have just read.
Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads… which is more than what’s on the back of the actual book…
“Jean le Flambeur gets up in the morning and has to kill himself before his other self can kill him first. Just another day in the Dilemma Prison. Rescued by the mysterious Mieli and her flirtatious spacecraft, Jean is taken to the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, where time is a currency, memories are treasures, and a moon-turned-singularity lights the night. Meanwhile, investigator Isidore Beautrelet, called in to investigate the murder of a chocolatier, finds himself on the trail of an arch-criminal, a man named le Flambeur…
Indeed, in his many lives, the entity called Jean le Flambeur has been a thief, a confidence artist, a posthuman mind-burgler, and more. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his deeds 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. In his last exploit, he managed the supreme feat of hiding the truth about himself from the one person in the solar system hardest to hide from: himself. Now he has the chance to regain himself in all his power—in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed.
The Quantum Thief is a breathtaking joyride through the solar system several centuries hence, a world of marching cities, ubiquitous public-key encryption, people who communicate via shared memory, and a race of hyper-advanced humans who originated as an MMORPG guild. But for all its wonders, The Quantum Thief is also a story powered by very human motives of betrayal, jealousy, and revenge.”
When I pick out a new book to buy from a bookshop I tend to read a few pages into it first, and I must say those first few pages had me intrigued from the first sentence. I knew that it was a sci-fi book, I knew that it was set in the distant future with a form of post-human society across the solar system, and the galaxy, I think. The story largely focuses on a colony of post-humans and other beings that live on a moving city on Mars.
I typically write notes on my Kindle Fire when I’m reading, and this book inspired the most that I have written about a book since I got the device. I used this medium to try to and understand the book a little better as I was all over the place to begin with – but actually it all sort of makes sense in a Quantum sense – time is fluid – and so it everything else it would seem.
Society is divided into sections – the post-human “people” that populate the moving city, the Quite – what the people become when their Time is up [Time is currency…] but after serving Time as a Quite they can become “restored” and have a new body with new Time. There are also “Nobel’s”, whose purpose I’m not quite sure of.
In the beginning we meet the main characte, Jean le Flambeur, who is serving a prison sentence in the Dilema Prison. Co-operation in the prison gets rewards, everything else usually results in death. Mieli, his liberator has a task for him [to be honest I couldn’t quite figure out what it was though…] and what ensues is essentially the destructions and reformation [I think] of the Mars colony based on the person Jean de Flambeur was once upon a time. Also, there’s a Goddess living in Mieli’s head…
It was a confusing plot, and essentially a sci-fi mind fuck that I didn’t fully comprehend. It took a really long time to read to the half way point, and then I seemed to zoom through the last half this evening. Despite the confusion, and the lack of understanding, I rated this book four stars on GoodReads because I liked how certain things were laid out, things that was very clever and all interlinked in ways that I couldn’t imagine. Although, I sort of expected the ending with the re-emergence of the Dilema Prison, of course not in the way that it did happen. The final chapter sets the scene for a series that would be bigger than the event’s in this one book, and sort of suggests that the events of this first book were only necessary to introduce that last chapter.
The narrative was quite unique as well, all the P.O.V.’s from the main characters perspective was told in first person – which fits in with the notion of finding oneself through the amnesia, through the traps that he set himself to find the treasure at the end of it all – and then the rest of the characters are told in a combination of second and third person [at least, I think it’s second, it doesn’t flow entirely as a third person narrative]. Interspaced in this are “interludes” which are brief glimpses into seemingly random lives on Mars but are all connected to the climax of the storyline.
There are bigger themes that the book explores that are probably worth essays and blogs in their own way rather than the brief mention that they recieve here. These themes include longevity of life [how old is too old?] privacy, security of a society from the government, or leading authority – the notion of freedom, and if we believe that we really are free…are we? Being slaves to a system without knowing. There’s also the notion of criminals, crime and piracy. It’s all very interesting like I say, deserving of a blog far more detailed than what I can write here.
I am unsure as of yet whether I will read the next book in the series. It’s a book that’s made me think about things, and the author delivered the story in a way that really impressed me. I don’t think that I have read a story that has done quite what this has.
Is this a book that you have read? What did you think?
Take is easy folks,
[Apologies for any spelling mistakes/errors I still have no Word, and am currently using “Pages” which I don’t think is as good as Word].