April 12, 2011
The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi is full to the brim with great Science Fiction ideas there’s: a thief imprisoned in an impossible prison, a set of post-singularity minds, a clan of ultra tech gamer ancestors, a detective, some vigilante superheros, a city walking across mars and a wonderful society know as The Oubliette.
The Oubliette is destined to become a classic, it’s a society where every ounce of personal information about you is controlled by cryptography, the Gevulot as it is known. A citizen can control if someone sees them, can remember them, can know anything about them. There’s a great lines that says “there are three things they do better than anyone here: wine, chocolate and cryptography.” I love this idea. My love helped by that fact that during my reading of the novel, in the real world, I was fighting x509 cryptographic certificates which was a lovely synchronicity.
On top of that citizens can share memories which adds a whole new form of communication. Ideas layered on ideas. Hannu really went for it, there was no holding back, no ideas squirrelled away for the sequel. The quantum tech is splattered everywhere, as the enabler to all these cool ideas. It doesn’t matter whether it’s possible or not, it doesn’t matter that a quark-gluon plasma bullet is unlikely, it sounds cool.
The whole novel is joyfully dense with cool stuff, you have to keep up, and I love that.
The plot however is more lumpy. It ends in a chaotic climax with revelations and twists and high octane stuff but it feels a little forced at times, which I know sounds weird as plots are artificial, but some plots have an inevitability about them that is impossible to see but obvious when they happen as if there was no other choice. At times in The Quantum Thief I found myself asking “why?” not just about the plot complications but also about the character’s motivations. Also, the start felt a bit weak to me too, relatively speaking, things really pick up when the Oubliette is revealed in all it’s glory.
But these are minor gripes, The Quantum Thief is dense and fun and crazy and overall very enjoyable. I’ll definitely be checking out anything else by Hannu, when he hooks up the perfect plot with all those ideas he’ll produce the most awesome novel.