Monday, 4 November 2013

The Quantum Thief and The Fractal Prince Are Good Books

Or why you should read the Jean Le Flambeur Series by Hannu Rajaniemi

The Quantum Thief and The Fractal Prince are heist novels set in a post singularity future solar system. A place where the Sobornost, a pantheon of uploaded software gods, work to complete The Great Common Task and war with the scattered clans of Zoku, an advanced civilization of quantumly entangled humans. A future that sees humans living in the deep cold of Oortian space; in flying cities of Venus; in the walking Oubliette city of Mars, or in the Spires of Sirr on wasted Earth. It is in this setting that Jean Le Flambeur is freed from the Dilemma Prison of the Sobornost Archons, a constructed reality that sees prisoners play out murderous Game Theory scenarios endlessly, by Mieli, an Oortian warrior who has promised herself to the Pellegrini Sobornost goddess. In return for his freedom Jean is tasked with accomplishing the ultimate theft for the Pellegrini. But to accomplish this Jean le Flambeur must first steal a series of tools: pieces of himself and others that are hidden in the Oubliette, a society obsessed with privacy where time is literally money, and scattered in the ruins of Earth, a desert of uploaded Jinn and hazardous, nanotechnology Wild Code. The Quantum Thief and The Fractal Prince show what Jean le Falmbeur is willing to do to steal from the very gods themselves.

These books are kind of perfect.

It's kind of hard to explain exactly why I love these books as much as I do. I mean, they are very entertaining, very smart books that portray a really interesting future which is at once gloriously fantastic and studiously plausible. The characters are charming and well realized and the prose sumptuously borrows from a wide variety of literary traditions and genres. The Quantum Thief and Fractal Prince thrums with contemporary Sci-fi, seduces with French Revolutionary thievery, deduces like a certain English detective, journeys like a Viking warrior, fights like Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and tells a story like it's an Arabian night all with a cosmopolitan Parisian cool. The mysteries are satisfying, and the plot twists are a wonderful mixture of deducible and shocking.  It's a book with a million ideas and a dozen voices... but that's not why it's perfect.

These books are perfect because of their restraint.

Despite the riot of brilliant, complicated ideas and the travelogue of literary references, The Quantum Thief and The Fractal Prince are perfectly balanced. Rajaniemi seems to know the perfect amount of each idea needed to keep the story moving but still tantalizingly hint at hidden depths. He knows how to use his various literary elements in a way that play off each other and enhance the whole without seeming cloying or awkward. It really is the art of saying just the perfect amount realized in a great pair of Science Fiction novels. And the result is this amazing techno of beautifully blended literary sounds and big idea Science Fiction that is, well, perfect.

I would recommend this book to any fan of contemporary Science Fiction. It's smart, fun, literary, and kind of perfect. I suspect you will, like me, be pleasantly surprised.

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