Book review: The Quantum Thief

Hannu Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief.

Author: Hannu Rajaniemi
Publisher: Gollancz

There are few hard sci-fi debuts able to perfectly balance captivating world creation and character driven plot. All too often in hard sci-fi characters are convenient, lightly drawn cyphers with just enough depth to convey the author’s burgeoning ideas, but that isn’t an issue in The Quantum Thief, the impressive debut novel by Finnish author Hannu Rajaniemi.

Set in a dazzling technological future several centuries from now, The Quantum Thief begins as a clever heist tale. Protagonist Jean le Flambeur, a flamboyant post-human criminal and trickster, is languishing in the Dilemma Prison – punished with continually facing off against himself in a deadly iteration of game theory.

But when le Flambeur is rescued by the mysterious Mieli in her sentient ship, and taken to Oubliette, the moving city of Mars, it’s quickly apparent she wants him to reacquaint himself with his lost memories and criminal skills – for a job on her behalf. Nor is he unopposed, with a young Coloumbo-esque Martian detective, Isidore Beautrelet, soon determined to uncover him.

It quickly becomes apparent that Rajaniemi, who also holds a PhD in String theory, has some wonderful hard sci-fi ideas. Oubliette initially has an almost confusing Alice In Wonderland vibe – thanks to concepts like a walking city, people communicating by shared memories, and time used as currency – which all blends with the hardcore physics and cyberpunk combat tropes.

But despite any initial confusion and all the hard sci-fi concepts being thrown around, everything becomes clear with Rajaniemi’s well drawn characters, and their cat-and-mouse chase within this beautifully conceived world, keeping you hooked all the way through to the epic conclusion.
With its engaging narrative and characters backed by often almost intimidatingly good sci-fi concepts, it’s easy to see why The Quantum Thief is being heavily, and deservedly, touted as ‘the’ big SF debut novel of the year.

[isbn name=”The Quantum Thief”]978-0575088870[/isbn]