Review: The Quantum Thief

Posted: May 9, 2011 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Hannu Rajaniemi, Science Fiction

THE QUANTUM THIEF (Amazon), by Hannu Rajaniemi, is a Hard SF book packed with ideas, twists and turns. It is difficult. It is confusing. I don’t think I understood the whole thing. I also loved every minute of it.

To try and describe the book would leave me feeling inadequate and stupid. I just know I’ll miss something, or not do it justice. So I’m going to let the back of the book describe it for you.

Jean le Flambeur gets up in the morning and has to kill himself before his other self can kill him first. Just another day in the Diemma Prison. Rescued by the mysterious Mieli and her flirtatious spacecraft, Jean is taken to the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, where time is a currency, memories are treasures, and a moon-turned-singularity lights the night. Meanwhile, investigator Isadore Beautrelet, called in to investigate the murder of a chocolatier, finds himself on the trail of an archcriminal, a man named le Flambeur.

Indeed, in his many lives, the entity called Jean le Flambeur has been a thief, a confidence artist, a posthuman mind-burglar, and more. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his deeds are known throughout the Heterarchy, from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of Mars. In his last exploit, he managed the supreme feat of hiding the truth about himself from the one person in the solar system hardest to hide from: himself. Now he has the chance to regain himself in all his power-in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed.

See? There was no way I was going to get close to that kind of description.

If you like SF novels that are heavy on the science and action, with insanely cool ideas, then THE QUANTUM THIEF is the book for you.

So let’s get right down to it, OK? This book has some flaws. To start with, the characters are fairly two dimensional. Most of the story is following Jean around, and he’s trying to crack into his old memories and find who he was. His personality changes throughout the book as bits and pieces get uncovered–some will like this, some will have a hard time becoming attached to the character. The other two main characters, Isidore and Mieli, are mostly there to help get through Jean’s story–don’t expect much else from them by way of personal information or growth. Perhaps the main issue that will stop a large number of people from liking the novel is just how incredibly dense the novel is. This isn’t Space Opera–it may be very difficult for the new SF reader to really get into this work. The science in the book is insane and it took me a good 10-15 pages to start understanding some of the words (gogol, gevulot, etc…).

But personally, I don’t care. That’s not what THE QUANTUM THIEF is about in my opinion. Again, this isn’t a light and fluffy SF novel. This is Hard SF. The science detailed and often hard to grasp. It is about the ideas, about a new and fascinating vision of a far future. This book is something new, different and alien and I loved it for that fact. There were several instances while reading where I shut the book and simply absorbed the ideas and concepts that the author presented. The implications of some of the technology was amazing. This book is about the ideas and about a mystery surrounding those ideas and in that the book succeeded on every level.

My heads still buzzing from reading THE QUANTUM THIEF. If you like SF novels that are heavy on the science and action, that cram insanely cool ideas down your throat every page or so, then this is certainly the book for you. I understand that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. As for me, I’m going to go read THE QUANTUM THIEF again.

  • Recommended Age: 15+ Nothing really wrong here, just a thick read. The age rec. is kinda dependent on your ability to grasp the deep concepts.
  • Language: Not too much. A few words here and there.
  • Violence: A few action scenes but nothing with blood or gore
  • Sex: An implied scene, nothing more


  • Justin says:

    This was pretty much my review in a nutshell. I think the tabloid I used wax – it's a whodunit but I'm not sure exactly who did it. I id really like it though – Rajaniemi isn't holding any hands that's for sure.

  • Justin says:

    Ugh tagline I used was… Autocorrect.

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