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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wild code
"The Fractal Prince" picks up where its predecessor, The Quantum Thief, left off (so stop reading this now if you haven't read "Thief" and you don't want spoilers). Master criminal Jean le Flambeur (a sort of post-human Raffles) has been rescued from prison by mercenary Mieli, acting for the mysterious Pellegrini. Pursued by Hunters, he is about undertake an audacious...
Published on 17 Oct. 2012 by D. Harris

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A waste of talent and time
It wasn't the fact that there is no explanation at all of the exceedingly complex back story against which the action unfolds that caused me to dump this book in the waste bin halfway through. I'd worked my way through `The Quantum Thief' which has the same problem, not all that happily, but still enjoyably because Mr Rajamiemi writes very well. You have this vocabulary...
Published 17 months ago by Amazon Customer


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wild code, 17 Oct. 2012
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D. Harris (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Fractal Prince (Quantum Thief 2) (Hardcover)
"The Fractal Prince" picks up where its predecessor, The Quantum Thief, left off (so stop reading this now if you haven't read "Thief" and you don't want spoilers). Master criminal Jean le Flambeur (a sort of post-human Raffles) has been rescued from prison by mercenary Mieli, acting for the mysterious Pellegrini. Pursued by Hunters, he is about undertake an audacious job for his patroness.

That makes it sound as though the story is just more of the same: a murder mystery and a caper, folded with mind-bending, almost incomprehensible hard-SF technology (none of it explained even in passing) and a tangle of motivations, both human and post human. And one can enjoy it at that level, watching the strangeness unfold and admiring Rajaniemi's command of the science, the breadth of his conception, his sheer breakneck imagination. The nature of the characters, in particular, encourages this. Almost all are instances (sometimes, multiple instances) of original individuals, incarnated into more or less techologically advanced artificial "bodies" for various purposes. (Rajaniemi's far future seems to follow the same logic as, for example, Charles Stross's Saturn's Children - intelligences cannot be artificial as such, but must be developed/ grown as human though they may then be duplicated, rehosted and augmented on non-biological hardware. A fair bit of the plot is concerned with accessing such stored "souls" - "gogols" - which are then traded as a commodity). Personality blurs - both for the "humans" and the godlike Sobernost - as does reality, which fractures into a succession of virtual worlds within worlds. In the end, it's not possible to say for sure who did what. I'm not even sure the question makes sense. So it's tempting just to hang on for the ride, as it were, without trying to understand too much.

However, I think that if you focus back from the detail - look at the wood rather than the trees, perhaps - a narrative is emerging, weaving together the early history of Jean himself, the pellegrini and the fate of Earth, all bound up with the intrigues of the godlike Sobernost. The latter - the vasilievs, the chens, the pellegrinis - are one of the best done parts of the book with the rivalries and jealousies of these supposedly higher intelligences resembling nothing as much as ancient myth, where gods with awesome powers but no commensurate sense of morality, responsibility, or proportion play power games with feeble humans. ("As flies to wanton boys so we are to the gods/ They kill us for their sport").

I suspect the book will divide readers. For me, it was exhilarating. If you want something where you can grasp each bit of detail before moving to the next, you may find it frustrating.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars KIng's new suit?, 5 Nov. 2012
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I. Baxter "the wingnut" (lincs uk) - See all my reviews
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Like the first in the series this should be read in conjunction with the explanatory Wiki article. You won't be much wiser, but it might help.The thing is to treat it like pure entertainment, and just blow through it, enjoying all the phantasmagorical happenings as you go.Don't try too make too much sense of it for the first couple of attempts, as everything is as mutable as in a dream.Things are changing constantly, not just in a wheels within wheels way, but in a nested box fashion, sort of Sheherazade meets the Neuromancer kind of effort.Is this author the new star on the scene,or is it all just a big lump of over-hyped techno-candyfloss? Is this style of "new physics" based fiction the shape of things to come? Well yes, S.F's not all Halo and shoot 'em ups, but I've seen it done better elsewhere with the gibberish and technobabble a bit more amenable to willing suspension of disbelief.Was I entertained? yes,and this is a keeper that I'll hopefully continue to return to for some time.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A waste of talent and time, 12 Oct. 2013
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It wasn't the fact that there is no explanation at all of the exceedingly complex back story against which the action unfolds that caused me to dump this book in the waste bin halfway through. I'd worked my way through `The Quantum Thief' which has the same problem, not all that happily, but still enjoyably because Mr Rajamiemi writes very well. You have this vocabulary in both books referring to events, people, societies, technology which is simply thrown at you and you have to surf across it or sink. I have been reading hard SF and Fantasy for many decades and this sort of back story is common. But not to explain it at all is outside my experience and in my view is stupid posturing that detracts from the book. Consider `The Lord of the Rings'. Tolkein had as complex a back story (if less Quantum technology) but took you with him via some explanation en route and by all the Appendices at the end of Volume 3.

Nonetheless, while I consider this approach to be a grave mistake, I could have lived with it. Rather it was an incident half way through that caused me to stop, analyse what was happening and realise I had better things to do. Our hero (probably - uploading and copying of minds makes for some uncertainty here) is tied to a chair in a virtual reality environment and is about to be tortured by an entity that looked like a tiger a page or two before but now has a human aspect (there is no explanation at this point of why this happens). Suddenly by a mechanism which is also not explained our hero turns the tables and triumphs. This is no more than the `with one bound he was free' device used by the writers of Victorian serials. After some thought I decided that the real weakness of this book is the fact that the characters we come to care about are never in serious jeopardy. Rather like the heroes of the Summer blockbuster films aimed at 14 year olds. Tom Cruise or Daniel Craig may be fighting villains on the top of a train about to enter the Channel Tunnel but we watch unmoved because we know they will emerge with no more than a decorative scratch or two.

The reasons for the `lack of jeopardy' in this book are :-

1. A mixture of Virtual Environments and Reality which is so intimate that you lose track of whether what is happening is really happening or not. The only other book I can recall giving up on in the past 20 years was David Mitchell's `Number9Dream' because I felt the author had mixed up dreams and reality too much and had not made it clear which was which. This is 100 times worse.

2. The hard SF quantum technology pervades events but is indistinguishable from magic exactly as Arthur C Clarke said. Whatever the problem a qbit or whatever can solve it.

3. Minds can be copied, stored and downloaded as required. If you lose your hero you can get another copy in an instant. The book does try to get round this by emphasising that the new copy is a different person but I don't think that works.

A pity because Mr Rajaniemi has real talent. Perhaps he needs to study the handling of complex back stories by masters like Tolkein, Frank Herbert (in the first book of the Dune series only) or CJ Cherryh to get the balance right. Certainly I will not be coming back for more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good sequel, 13 Dec. 2012
By 
Simon Edgar (Bristol, S/Gloucs England) - See all my reviews
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The first book (Quantum Thief) took a while to make sense, and settle down into a style you could decipher and appreciate as new and different. Once you "got it" it became a refreshing new angle on storytelling that I like. This book carries on from the first and is already in it's stride, so instant fun. For all it's newness though there is an underlying sense of Conan Doyle about it. Every so often everything falls into place because Le Flambeur does something only he knows about and you are left wondering how that happened based on the scant information you were given. And we are not talking about red clay on a shoe here! This is not to say it is too unpredictable. I like the fact I have no idea where it is going for a change!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A glorious, grand tapestry with one or two rough edges, 3 Dec. 2014
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This is the second instalment in one of those quasi-trilogies which abound in science fiction nowadays. I say 'quasi' because each individual book makes very little sense on its own, and is basically just a volume in a larger, single story. That's maybe a bit unfair - let's just say the overall story arc is a lot stronger than the individual book plots. So, as other reviewers have said, if you haven't read 'The Quantum Thief', you need to do that first, otherwise this one will make no sense at all. That said, this has to be one of the strangest sf books I've read, right up there with John Clute's 'Appleseed' or M John Harrison's 'Light'... so maybe talking about it 'making sense' is maybe stretching things a little. But hey, that's what we read science fiction for, right? If it's not bending your mind, what's the point?

What I really like about this story is that there is clearly a fascinating and incredibly rich world here, which is only shown off in the most maddeningly, tantalizingly tiny glimpses... but there is also a very strong plot, which drives the story along very effectively. Jean le Flambeur, a mixture of Raffles and Loki, is great fun, and with a supporting cast of heroes, heroines, broken dreamers and gods, he twists through this world - half vacuum-cold physics and half self-invented software fantasy - like an oyster knife.

A word on structure: To often with sf, the first half of the book sets the world up, and the second tells the story. Equally, with material like this, where there is a strong metaphysical component, its easy to get lost in the mysticality of it all (if that's a word), and produce extremely poetic gibberish. But here there are pieces of both world- and plot puzzles scattered throughout the book, and Hannu Rajaniemi just manages to skate this side of the gibberish line. For me, anyway - others may find it too much. He's like some faery silversmith forging cutting-edge physics buzzwords with metaphysics and storytelling into something breathtakingly strange - impressive, but it won't go in everyone's hallway. There are a fair few spots, especially towards the end, where the plot-twists require a bit of re-reading in order to make some kind of sense.

On the ideas presented, I have mixed feelings. On one level, there is a slightly trite 'power of stories' meme here which I find a wee bit tired. Happily it is in a minor role, and I am much more taken with the world of the Sobornost and the zoku, which I am looking forward to exploring in the third volume. And you also have to take it as read that software can be hacked, as easily as breathing. But that's a minor gripe, really. This is a book with huge vision. I think it overreaches just a tiny bit, occasionally - but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

I finished this book with a sense of great satisfaction. I'd been made to think, entertained, and been provided with glimpses of a universe exceeding strange. I would much rather have that, with a few rough edges, than something more pedestrian but more polished.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Emperors new clothes perhaps?, 13 April 2014
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Read the first, this second book is just very random, jumping from point to point, at times I had literally (and I do mean literally) no idea what was going on. It is at times almost unintelligible, there is no backstory which would be immensely interesting and I would love to read that, it seems to be complex for complexities sake, The author had may as well of invented a new language which you had to learn, by only reading the book, before you could read the book. I've given up on this author, not worth the time and effort to read it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good sequel, though not as good a 1st, 6 April 2013
This sequel to the Quantum Thief follows the same style as the 1st. New words are thrown about, and their meaning only explained much later. But we know a bit more about the characters and events mentioned in the 1st book.

The story starts from the last book's end. The thief is going to Earth. While Mars was like ancient Greece, Earth is like the Arab stories. There are jinns in the desert that take over human minds. Adventurous men go out into the desert to steal these jinns (really just bodyless minds) to force them into slavery.

The Sobornost is planning an invasion of Earth. Earth is protected by wild code, that corrupts and kills anyone who doesn't know the secret spells that protects the locals. The Sobornost is useless against this, but plan to attack anyway. The thief drops into this mess to steal an ancient mind thousands of years old....

While I loved this book, like the 1st one, I was a bit disappointed with the ending. While the books are pure sci-fi, at the end of this book, the author waves his hand and introduces a bit of fantasy. I don't know, it looked out of place.
Still, the book is worth reading, but only if you enjoyed the 1st one
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very hard to follow, 6 Jun. 2013
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IMCPU2 "imcpu2" (Portsmouth England) - See all my reviews
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I like this book and its predecessor, but must admit to not following it completely. Science fiction is a mixed bag - some science mixed with fiction, but the science usually has to make sense, but I find the creation of words and ideas so frustrating in Rajaniemi's works that he might as well be talking in a different language. I finally managed to finish, but not sure what it was all about.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the last one, 29 Nov. 2012
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I felt that this book shared some of the exquisitely creative concepts demonstrated in the quantum thief but the execution was slightly muddled with the clarity of the storyline sometimes suffering. It is worth persisting since the last fifth of the book does tie things together but especially in the early parts of the novel it is easy to feel a little lost.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inventive, Mind Blowing well crafted Future Epic, 10 Nov. 2012
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An absolute tour de force of inventiveness.
Fascinating worlds, beautifully rich technology and great characterisation makes the Fractal Prince into a must read.
You'll need a little patience at first, but stick with the somewhat disorienting lore and language and you'll be richly rewarded. As the texture and subtlety of this well-realised reality gradually reveals itself you'll be gripped, swept up in the journey and completely immersed in the almost magical technology.
In fact, because it is so seamlessly stitched into the lives of the people we're following, you soon understand why Rajaniemi doesn't just explain it - that would break the reality of the world he's created.
Get hold of this and dive in.
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The Fractal Prince (Quantum Thief 2)
The Fractal Prince (Quantum Thief 2) by Hannu Rajaniemi (Hardcover - 27 Sept. 2012)
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