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3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 8 November 2012
Where the previous volume (The Quantum Thief) was only fairly confusing, this is almost willfully obscure. Not that it is without interest, but nothing is explained directly, and what is presented tangentially or in fragments is wrapped up in all manner of tiresome gubbins -- smartmatter, computer-based personalities, intelligent spaceships with emotional issues, free-floating rogue software, multiple realities, cod eastern mysticism, and (of course) quantum everything. In fact it contains everything that I'm beginning to get really rather tired of in modern SF. I had hoped that things would become clearer from part one, but no such luck. I had to read The Quantum Thief twice; I don't think I could bear to do the same with this.
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on 13 April 2014
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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on 6 December 2012
Fast service, excellent packaging nothing to complain about really. Book a bit highbrow for me but present for brother so it'll be fine
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"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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on 21 January 2015
The Final Book. Just what I was waiting for. Everything comes together.
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on 2 August 2014
Oh deary deary me!
Hannu's first novel promised so much. Unfortunately his sequel just didn't deliver!
The quantum thief was quite enjoyable. Enjoyable if you are open to new ideas and writing styles and don't need your SF to be straight-forward. The writing style was something of an acquired taste but seasoned veterans (like I imagine myself to be) are nothing if not up for a challenge...isn't that the point of SF?
This one really isn't worth the challenge.
I liked the authors vague, offhand writing style of his first novel (I can only describe it as the polar opposite of the 'Basil exposition' writing style, if that makes sense!). I even felt some sort of gratification that I could follow his storytelling and still enjoy the thing with so little effort from the author (oh how he flattered me!). We all like that sense of inclusiveness don't we?
My lasting impression is that this second offering is the result of a wager down the pub with his mates as to just how little effort can be employed in writing a successful second novel.
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on 3 December 2014
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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on 14 August 2016
Quantum Thief was characterised by a flurry of exotic terminology that if you were lucky would be explained a few chapters after it was introduced. This required some effort on the part of the reader to follow the story, but the concepts and characters were worth the effort and there was a genuine sense of achievement in getting to the end of the book and feeling like (after some re-reading) you understood what had happened. In this sequel it almost seems like the author is trying to out-cryptic the first book, with so many new terms it becomes ridiculous. Chapters alternate between the interesting main plot with Jean/the thief and what's happening on Earth with the other main character, Tawaddud. Unfortunately, these chapters are tangled and dull, so you long for the next one, when it's back to Jean again. The narrative flow also suffers from having multiple versions of the same characters, some at different points in time, some as embedded copies within the heads of other characters, some as simulations and some who are pretending to be each other or who have had different names at different times. It's all too confusing and drawn out, so without a strong story pushing it all along I was quite glad to get to the end.
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VINE VOICEon 6 June 2013
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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on 13 December 2012
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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