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  1. #1
    Registered User Werthead's Avatar
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    The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

    Jean le Flambeur gets up one morning and has to kill himself before his other self can kill him. Just another day in the Dilemma Prison. Rescued by the mysterious Mieli and her flirtatious spacecraft, Jean is taken to the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, to take part in crime and also to expose the secrets of his past, which have been lost on that planet lit by a moon-turned-singularity where time is a currency and memories are a treasure. Meanwhile, investigator Isidore Beautrelet, called in to investigate the murder of a chocolatier, becomes embroiled in shadowy conspiracies and finds himself on the trail of an arch-criminal, a man name le Flambeur...

    The Quantum Thief is the debut novel by Finnish author (but Scottish-resident) Hannu Rajaniemi and has been heavily trailed as 'the' big SF debut novel of the year. These accounts are correct. The Quantum Thief is a crazy joyride through Mars several centuries hence, a world of marching cities, people communicating by sharing memories and a race of hyper-advanced humans who originated as MMORPG guild members. It's the sort of book you'd get if Scott Lynch and Greg Egan teamed up, with the character and black humour approach of the former mixed in with the hardcore physics of the latter. It's at the harder end of hard SF, but is reasonably approachable by those without a degree in quantum entanglement, even if some sort of glossary to distinguish the tzaddiks from the Sobornosts might have been handy for the first few chapters. The opening feels like you're being machine-gunned with concepts and ideas, but once you manage to pause for breath and sort everything out, the story falls into place quite nicely.

    Despite the hard scientific concepts being flung around, the book is character-focused with Jean, Mieli and Isidore as the primary protagonists. They are all well-drawn with some depth to them, impressive given that in their world memories and personality traits aren't always what they first appear. The story unfolds briskly (whilst the final layout means that the book will come in at 400 pages, the ARC is a modest 260 pages in length) with barely a pause for breath, the plot is gripping, the ideas complex but thought-provoking, and there are all the requisite shocking revelations and intriguing plot twists you could wish for. The only negative that comes to mind is a late-book revelation that feels like it could be somewhat cheesy, but in execution is actually perfectly acceptable.

    The Quantum Thief is (*****) is a bravura debut novel, a confident and accomplished work that reinvigorates the genre. It is easily the best SF debut since Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon. The novel will be published in the UK on 30 September 2010, but has no US publisher as yet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Werthead View Post
    The Quantum Thief is (*****) is a bravura debut novel, a confident and accomplished work that reinvigorates the genre. It is easily the best SF debut since Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon. The novel will be published in the UK on 30 September 2010, but has no US publisher as yet.
    While it's a bit of quibbling, but Golden Age appeared two months or so after Altered Carbon at least as Wikipedia goes and I do not think there has been a sf debut as amazing as that one at least as inventiveness and sense of wonder goes in recent memory

    While it's less well known and it's quite dense and ambitious packing 1000 pages worth of stuff in 400 and doing it well, Gary Gibson's debut Angel Stations (2004) is considerably better than Altered Carbon as sf-nal qualities go

    This being said I am eager to read The Quantum Thief and I have very high expectations since I agree that a new sense of wonder voice in sf is quite welcome

  3. #3
    Hannu posted on Twitter that The Quantum Thief is the first book of a trilogy.

    I'm looking forward to this one, and am thrilled to hear that he has signed a U.S. deal for the trilogy.

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    Finished the book and the author's short stories give a good preview of this in some ways, so while the early reviews made me think it will be better, it was pretty mediocre in many ways.

    massively over-hyped debut that has mediocre writing and over-reliance on gadgetry, becoming basically "my magic is bigger than yours" and having a destined boy to boot (all done sf-nally true but in consequences as close to magic as to make little difference except in jargon, including the noble blood/ok genetic factors but same stuff different disguise).

    As comparisons go, this is so far from the great prose of RK Morgan to make it a ridiculous comparison, while in content Liz Williams Solar System novels (Banner Souls, Winterstrike) are more interesting and engaging and better written; a B for its goodies and the ending is interesting enough so i will check the sequel, but unless the author shows he can write fiction and not only gadgetry I am afraid this series will go on my dropped list soon

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    Registered User Werthead's Avatar
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    The reception to The Quantum Thief has been pretty impressive across the board. Stross and Clute have it glowing reviews, it's gotten top scores from SFX and SciFi Now, and most of the other review sites have given it top marks. Really good to see a decent, quality SF debut getting such good coverage.

    And I'm not sure someone who, apparently sober, said that The Left Hand of God was a good book is in any position to call another reviewer's opinion 'ridiculous'

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    Quote Originally Posted by Werthead View Post
    The reception to The Quantum Thief has been pretty impressive across the board. Stross and Clute have it glowing reviews, it's gotten top scores from SFX and SciFi Now, and most of the other review sites have given it top marks. Really good to see a decent, quality SF debut getting such good coverage.

    And I'm not sure someone who, apparently sober, said that The Left Hand of God was a good book is in any position to call another reviewer's opinion 'ridiculous'
    Left Hand of God has narrative energy as does Altered Carbon, while The Quantum Thief does not - you just compare how RK Morgan treats 'resleeving" and all the little details, how this new body feels right, wrong, how others feel, vs here where "new body, bah" - that just freezes my suspension of disbelief;

    Same with multiple personalities - having copyable personalities (of limited not godlike people) already opens a can of worms and I think that it ultimately leads to MorningLightMountain philosophy from The Commonwealth (exterminate everyone else, copy yourself everywhere) which incidentally is shared by the villain of the Metaplanetary series - so unless specific enforced restrictions are explicitly shown (Culture and the godlike AI's, the strong enforcement against copying in RK Morgan....) it's hard to buy the society the author describes

    As for the appeal to authority, well that's why I started reviewing to get away from that; i remember the the early 90's when i was groping my way seriously through sf with the Trillion Year Spree encyclopedia and the few reviews in Asimov's and the like and thought wtf is this review when this book reads to me completely different - now there is a flowering of opinions and that's much better

    The only thing I am sorry is "ridiculous" but that to me that was referring to the prose qualities of the two books (Morgan and Rajaniemi) since they are wildly different, though I agree they share some themes As mentioned also The Golden Age by JC Wright shares lots of themes with TQF (erasure of collective memories, age of mentality, evolved intelligences as "gods" with superpowers like Pellegrini here...) and I thought its ornate baroque like prose worked in a way the mostly light prose here did not...

  7. #7
    Dazed Rambler Winter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by suciul View Post
    Finished the book and the author's short stories give a good preview of this in some ways, so while the early reviews made me think it will be better, it was pretty mediocre in many ways.

    massively over-hyped debut that has mediocre writing and over-reliance on gadgetry, becoming basically "my magic is bigger than yours" and having a destined boy to boot (all done sf-nally true but in consequences as close to magic as to make little difference except in jargon, including the noble blood/ok genetic factors but same stuff different disguise).

    As comparisons go, this is so far from the great prose of RK Morgan to make it a ridiculous comparison, while in content Liz Williams Solar System novels (Banner Souls, Winterstrike) are more interesting and engaging and better written; a B for its goodies and the ending is interesting enough so i will check the sequel, but unless the author shows he can write fiction and not only gadgetry I am afraid this series will go on my dropped list soon
    This, though chances are I will not be continuing on with the series unless someone sends me the sequel.

    Seems I am agreeing with you a lot lately. I read and reviewed this a couple months ago. I really don't get all the hype surrounding something so mediocre, but oh well.

  8. #8
    AS=1/2(Vf**2-Vi**2) Diosces's Avatar
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    so-so

    Finished reading Quantum Thief and like others I found the first half very confusing and disjointed. Although the book has some interesting concepts, the author fails to integrate these in coherent fashion.

    and the protoganist comes off like a real ass.

    Wanted to like it a lot but can't say I enjoyed.

    Now my follow up read, Rule 34 is going quite grand...

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