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The Fractal Prince Hardcover – 27 Nov 2012

3.7 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 27 Nov 2012
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (27 Nov. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765329506
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765329509
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3 x 24.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,566,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Its great virtue arguably lies in its very strangeness. (SFX MAGAZINE) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

Sensational science fiction from a new global star in the genre. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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By D. Harris TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 17 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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