Friday, June 17, 2011

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

The Quantum ThiefA fellow book blogger described this book as "mind-blowing". I'm afraid I'm far too jaded to have my mind blown at this juncture, but I found it to be a good debut novel from a new author. Rajaniemi's writing reminds me a bit of Walter Jon Williams' early stuff, with a dash of Iain Banks and a sprinkle of Sterling.

The story takes place in near-Mars orbit. A man who was once a renowned thief, Jean le Flambeur, is confined to the Dilemma Prison, where prisoners are forced to play variations of the Prisoner's Dilemma game until their socialization is back in alignment, at which point they can be release. Jean has been here a long long time.

However, Mieli, an agent of a mysterious organization called the Sobornost, and her spaceship, Perhonen, break Jean out of the prison, and hire/blackmail him into helping them to steal something they need. They travel to a city on Mars called The Oubliette, where Time literally equals money, and people are able to control their memories and how they are shared with others. Jean discovers that he used to live in the Oubliette, and left behind portions of his memories with various people and locked up in a number of places, and in order to complete his task, he must find and integrate them all.

As you might assume, in a story where people's memories are easily uploaded and downloaded from powerful computers, and where their essences can be transferred between bodies, human or otherwise, things get confusing rapidly, and they don't get  any less complicated by the introduction of many rival factions in the midst of a power struggle to control the Oubliette. The Oubliette is a walking city, constantly on the move, and being pursued and attacked by the phoboi, some sort of nanocreatures who constantly mutate into more deadly forms.

This is a very creative story, and quite twisty, as well. When the underlying assumptions of the story begin to make you question which segments were real, and which merely dreams, visions, or misplaced memories, it may blow your mind. It merely annoys me. I'll have to see how Rajaniemi does with his next book, though.

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