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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Non-derivative science fiction - hooray!
I agree with one of the other posters; this will probably become a classic. It is well written and highly imaginative, creating an original and yet oddly familiar future setting. Original in that it is refreshingly different to the well trodden space opera genre and is full of new ideas. True they are not all explained in detail and the author could have easily made the...
Published on 11 Feb 2012 by A. Mackintosh

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Quantum of Tedium
Although I would consider myself a fan of science fiction films and fiction, I only read a handful of science fiction novels a year. Around five or so, and those I've liked best in recent years are by writers like Ian MacDonald, Richard Morgan, and Connie Willis. I was drawn to this one partly due to the effusive critical reception it seemed to be getting, and partly...
Published on 12 Dec 2011 by A. Ross


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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Non-derivative science fiction - hooray!, 11 Feb 2012
By 
A. Mackintosh (Heptonstall UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Quantum Thief (Paperback)
I agree with one of the other posters; this will probably become a classic. It is well written and highly imaginative, creating an original and yet oddly familiar future setting. Original in that it is refreshingly different to the well trodden space opera genre and is full of new ideas. True they are not all explained in detail and the author could have easily made the book 100-150 pages longer - but would it have been better? I'm not sure it would have been. It was refreshing to not have things explained in detail, scenes set , histories transcribed etc and to be catapulted into this strange and yet in some ways classic ie Martian setting - an almost Golden Age 1950's feel at times! It did feel slightly fragile now and then - but better that than the ponderous doorstops that get churned out all too often in this genre - and it has a welcome and subtle light touch that sets it apart from it's rivals. 4 or 5 stars? I'll give it 4 because I think he can get even better!

The best sci-fi I've read since early Banks' novels. I very much look forward to the next.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another promising writer pops up in my radar, 8 April 2011
This review is from: The Quantum Thief (Paperback)
First things first, this is isn't the average book, there is a tang (maybe more) of weirdness to it. The novel is clearly space opera, but also not quite.

It starts with a prison, in fact, the Prison. A place with no clear boundaries because it can grow. It is also an unsual place because its directors make the prisioners play dangerous games and die, then its revival for them and repeat. That until the prisioners are redeemed of their criminal acts. It is from there one of our protagonist comes, Jean le Flaumber, a former thief who remembers nothing from his life.

He is rescued by Mieli and her ship, because of that he is in debt to her. The payback of the debt is what makes the story of "The Quantum Thief" and possibly of the second book, "The Fractal Prince".

Jean, Mieli and another surprise character meet in Oubliette, a peculiar city in a inhospitable planet, and problem starts brewing. It involves virtual inteligent beings, who could have come from real people or not, and even more odd things.

The novel also has a few elements of hard sf, a few quantum things, nanotechnology, among others, but nothing too detailed and hard to follow or unenjoyable, far from it, in fact.

It is original but within everyone comprehension. Definitely worth reading and waiting for a sequel.

Till next time,
M.I.T.H. (ManInsideTheHelm)
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89 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new Classic, 5 Oct 2010
By 
Diziet "I Like Toast" (Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Quantum Thief (Hardcover)
I think this is likely to become a sci-fi classic. Considering that it's also the first published work by Hannu Rajaniemi, that is pretty impressive.

I have to admit that, for the first chapter or so, I thought this was just going to be another techno-geek gadgetfest but I was definitely wrong. Like another reviewer, I found the start pretty confusing as the author does not give you much of a chance to get to grips with his terminology, with the result that I was left floundering about but hanging in there; a feeling I'm used to after reading a lot of Tricia Sullivan and C J Cherryh. And, like those writers, if you bear with it long enough, it starts to come together and repays the effort with interest.

Along the way, the story pays it's dues to it's sci-fi ancestors. I mean, the Quantum Thief - Jean le Flambeur - really reminds me of Harry Harrison's 'Stainless Steel Rat', while other characters, and even whole scenes, bring to mind Alfred Bester's 'Tiger! Tiger!' and 'The Demolished Man'.

However, even the technology has literary and classical references - 'Gogol' becomes a noun to describe disembodied minds, and that gives rise to 'gogol pirates' as a major theme within the story; the control of privacy and access to memory is central - thus the architecture of the great moving Martian city has classical Greek 'agoras' or public 'places of assembly' built in to it; the use of 'exomemory' brings to mind (but in a rather more subtle way) Richard Morgan's 'Altered Carbon'; and, of course, there is the nice 'double entendre' of the 'Oubliette' itself. All this, though, comes together in a truly original world.

So, a very well put together world - not just the tech but the whole back story, as we get hints and bits of history of a Kingdom, a Revolution. Then, besides Jean le Flambeur, there is a whole zoo of exotic characters - the multi-talented Raymonde (who reminded me somehow of Robin Wednesbury), Mieli and her ship Perhonen, Isidore the brilliant young detective and his girlfriend Pixil from a 'zoku' tribe of virtual game players, and the millenniaire Unruh (when Time is a currency, how else to describe the mega-rich?). The variety of characters is also reflected in the narrative - alternating between Jean (first person narrative), Mieli (third person), Isidore (third person) - and the chapter structure too as, occasionally, the chapters are interrupted by 'Interludes'.

That's the tech, the characters and the story structure. But that's just the start. The story itself is wonderful, multi-layered, mind-expanding stuff. It starts off straight-forwardly enough - a prison break for the thief, a mission or perhaps commission, and off he goes. But the way it develops is extraordinary. It becomes clear that all the technology is not simply 'for show' but is central to not just the workings of the world but also to the identities of the characters. The story becomes a shifting palimpsest of memories and all those feelings of Alice-like disorientation from the beginning of the book return. Hints of realities within realities, virtual and otherwise, leave plenty of room for Hannu Rajaniemi to further investigate his remarkable world.

On top of all that, it is really well written. There are a (very) few odd clunky bits but overall the story flows really well, the imagery is strong, original and powerful.

As I said, I think this is destined to be recognised as a sci-fi classic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent debut...., 25 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Quantum Thief (Paperback)
I first read this novel in 2011 and thought it was pretty good at the time, if a little complex in terms of the introduction of terms with no glossary. However, having read it again recently, I have to say that it's a book that definitely improves with the second reading - once terms like gevulot and spimescape are understood from the first time through, the novel hangs together even better than it did before.

The novel is at heart a detective story told on a number of levels. One one hand there is the tale of Jean trying to piece his life, or lives, together, and on the other there is the story of Isidore piecing together his past and the true nature of Oubliette. The pacing is good and the characterisation superior. This is hard sci fi at its best. Yes, the first fifty pages will give the odd "eh?" moment, but persevere and it is its own reward. Read it again and this becomes even more so.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the best debuts i've read in years, 8 July 2014
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This review is from: The Quantum Thief (Paperback)
Reading this was like reading "Neuromancer" for the first time in the 80s. Initially it's unsettling as there are plenty of unfamiliar terms - some based on Russian, some Japanese, some quantum physics (as you'd expect) - just thrown out there with no explanation but if you have the patience to relax into not knowing exactly what's going on as you read and don't feel the need to be spoon-fed every little detail then things start to make sense and the characters and story pull you in. It's a process of discovery like all the best world-building sci-fi and if that appeals then I doubt you'll regret starting on 'The Quantum Thief'.

That said, there's plenty of action too with numerous cool but somewhat plausible future weapons on display.

(and if you're not quite patient enough then Wikipedia now has a glossary of most of the terms too)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Quantum of Tedium, 12 Dec 2011
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Quantum Thief (Paperback)
Although I would consider myself a fan of science fiction films and fiction, I only read a handful of science fiction novels a year. Around five or so, and those I've liked best in recent years are by writers like Ian MacDonald, Richard Morgan, and Connie Willis. I was drawn to this one partly due to the effusive critical reception it seemed to be getting, and partly because the plot summary invoked a kind of swashbuckling rogue at the center of the plot, and I love rogues as protagonists (think Flashman, think Captain Blood, think the Grey Mouser). So I thought I'd make this one of my few science fiction books of the year -- big mistake.

To be sure, this debut is chock full of interesting ideas, and yet it's entirely unentertaining -- I can't recall the last book that I fell asleep to so many times. The protagonists barely register as characters, and since the consciousness of individuals exist in the book in various iterations of uploads, restores, and copies, it's even harder to become invested in any character's story or development. Meanwhile, the plot is an entirely convoluted caper that is both (A) exceedingly hard to decipher, and (B) ultimately kind of meaningless. The best precis of the book comes from one character's summation on page 293: "An interplanetary thief is building a picotech machine out of the city itself while the cyptarchs take over people's minds to try to destroy the zoku colony to stop the tzaddikim from breaking their power."

Uh...yeah... Maybe part of my problem is that I don't have much of a head for science, and all the stuff in this book about quantum particles and whatnot all just flies over my head. There's a whole ton of singularity, AI, social networking, privacy theories and ideas pumped up on steroids throughout. Sometimes these are really interesting (such as the concept that the Martian economy revolves around time, and once a person's time is all gone, they are turned into a worker drone for a number of years), but most just rattled past me at breakneck speed. I suppose that's the main problem I had -- so many elements were so conceptual that I had a very hard time picturing the setting, the action, and the people in my head. I mean, I generally have no problem with imagination (heck, I played paper and pencil RPGs for a solid 15 years of my life), but this book just never came alive in my head.

So while I really liked concepts such as the Martian social system of perception and memory sharing (you can instinctively fine tune your privacy settings per the situation, you can share a memory you've had with another person or group of people), I never found any stakes to make me care about what was going on. One reviewer really hit the nail on the head by calling it "the most tediously imaginative book in history" -- I'm not sure I would say "in history", but it's certainly the most tediously imaginative book I've read this year. Way too much technobabble and not enough people to care about.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind-bending start, turns into pacy pot-boiler, 7 Aug 2012
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This review is from: The Quantum Thief (Paperback)
I bought Quantum thief based on the Charles Stross endorsement - "I hate to say it, but he might be better at this stuff than I am".

This is partially true. The initial 4 or so chapters are pretty mind-bending, in that many plot facets are introduced without exposition. Narration is first person and is unreliable and partial - the main character being a partial-amnesiac.

What I like most about the style of this novel is that it doesn't spell it out for you. This is a tricky beast, challenging the reader to keep up.

The depth of characterisation, and humour is not quite up there with Stross, but the depth of world-building probably exceeds it. If you enjoyed Glasshouse by Stross this is comparable, think of it as a cross between that and Altered Carbon, minus [most of] the ultra-violence.

Good for fans of trans-humanist, anarchic fiction, not dullard space-opera. I have pre-ordered the squeal.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but hard to follow, 5 Dec 2010
By 
Robert (Uxbridge, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Quantum Thief (Paperback)
I enjoyed this book. The first I have read by this author. I found the culture of a walking Martian city based on an idealised Paris fascinating. I am not sorry I bought it. There is a big but... Buuut...The thread of a tale can be easily broken by unfamiliar words or unexplained ideas. Several times I found myself reading a paragraph and was suddenly derailed trying to understand a concept or word. OK, a lot was explained later. But some of the plot never seemed to get explained. Which is why the last fifth of the book felt like a morass of porridge. I just could not understand what was going on. However the book was, mostly, a fun read.
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40 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spare, No-Nonsense Sci-Fi Debut, 2 Oct 2010
This review is from: The Quantum Thief (Hardcover)
I've never been one for appendices. Laborious timelines, glossaries of characters and indexes of pivotal events - they've always felt like laziness to me; desperate forget-me-nots crafted by writers either incapable or unwilling to streamline pertinent information. I can understand the place of such things in, say, part six of some epic fantasy saga, but even then I'll give them the cold shoulder. I'm of the opinion that a book should communicate all necessary knowledge in the body of its narrative. More so, in fact, in the case of the aforementioned multi-volume tomes. For my money, an author should be accommodating, both of new readers and those who've waited a period of years for the next installment of their favourite series. If not - if the body of a book isn't approachable in itself - such appendices are little better than a trick to lure in easy prey and obfuscate that novel's oversight.

Tell you what, though: all my complaints aside, had there been some sort of index, I would have gladly (and repeatedly) referred to it during the mind-boggling first third of The Quantum Thief. Finnish debut author Hannu Rajaniemi does not condescend to explain much of anything in the opening act of his first novel. Nor, indeed, are convenient infodumps forthcoming in the remainder. There is a great swathe of races to get to know - Tzaddikim, Quiet, zoku and Sobornost - not to mention a wealth of initially baffling concepts to wrap your head around, from gevulots and spimescapes to Watches and agoras. The tomorrow's world of The Quantum Thief is one in motion from the get-go; its inexorable forward motion will fluster even the most grizzled veteran of hard science fiction, and there's hardly a chance to catch your breath.

We come upon Jean le Flambeur in the Dillemma prison, facing off against himself in an infinite iteration of game-theory. The titular thief comes a cropper, the bullet of his mirror-image opponent "an ice-cream headache, burrowing into my skull... and then things stop making sense." An apparent angel comes to his aid, spiriting Jean away to her sleek spidership, Perhonen, but Mieli (mind in Finnish) has only rescued the thief to imprison him once more. Before he can even begin to understand his latest captor, however, the ship comes under attack: the Archon guards want their prisoner back. But Jean, still quick on his toes despite his years of in the "diamond donut," eats the nanomissile lodged in Perhonon's sapphire skin - of course he does! - and all is well again.

Then there's the Tzaddikim detective, Isidore Beautrelet, whose indefatigable passion for solving mysteries makes him a tolerable curiosity to his zoku partner, Pixil - that is when she's not out on a raid astride her epic mount, Cyndra, "a plump, pink-haired elf." Isidore will have a vital part to play in the Mars-shattering events that Jean and Mieli set in motion. At the moment, however, he's up to his neck in chocolate: death by chocolate, to be precise.

The curious murder of a renowned chocolatier and Isidore's Columbo-esque unravelling of the otherworldly mechanics of it represent the first real opportunity for readers to come to grips with the various peoples and ideas of The Quantum Thief. Much of the action therein takes place on the Oubliette, a moving Martian city populated by settlers who must earn back their humanity as insect-like labourers, whereupon the currency for all things is time: a trip in a spidercab, a child to call your own or food from the fabbers costs so many megaseconds. And that isn't even the half of it. Rajaniemi has crafted a rich and far-flung futurescape full of insight and invention. He doesn't so much lay it out for us whole cloth as litter the lustrous landscape with clues for readers to draw inference from.

And appendices be damned, I wouldn't have had it any other way.

What begins as a sense of bafflement takes shape over the course of The Quantum Thief as a discovery waiting to be had, a mindfield of singular experiences yours for the taking. Interludes which seem appropos of nothing to begin with gradually enmesh with the two-pronged narrative the thief and the detective share; the world, the people, the ideas, all so utterly other at first, come together like the crystalline threads of Mieli's spidership during combat: once an expansive solar web, "the scattered modules pull themselves... along their tethers and fuse together into a tight, hard cone."

Coming from an author with a PhD in string theory, it's no surprise, I suppose, that The Quantum Thief is so intelligent as to appear intimidating, and though it takes a while to orient yourself to Rajaniemi's particular rhythm, his debut comes together piece by piece in the mode of M. John Harrison's Light - and it's every bit the equal of that modern-day genre masterpiece. Beneath the science, you see, beneath the staggering speculative wonder of it all, Hannu Rajaniemi has a knack for spare, no-nonsense storytelling that approaches the poetic at times. The Quantum Thief is a revelation, in the end, and make no mistake: we have here the sci-fi debut of 2010.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Up there with The Culture novels, 17 May 2013
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When I first read the Culture novels of Iain M Banks I didn't understand them, but over the years I have come to love them and prize them as literary gems. I guess I needed to grow-up to appreciate them. I mention this because reading The Quantum Thief it felt like it was happening all over again. It's a complex world with no handbook, but the absorbing characters and the quality of the writing make you want to understand it.
A fast paced mystery with well rounded characters in a complex and absorbing world. Some cool fights with even cooler tech and some sparkles of wit. I look forward to the next one.
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The Quantum Thief
The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi (Paperback - 1 Nov 2011)
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