Review: The Fractal Prince

Posted: March 27, 2013 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Hannu Rajaniemi, Science Fiction

I’ve often talked with my wife about how our lives have changed.  We remark on how improvements in technology have changed our day-to-day lives in such significant ways that our kids live totally different lives than we did twenty years ago.  Having those types of discussions has led me to wonder what a person who was born one hundred or one hundred and fifty years ago would think about us today.  Would they even recognize what we do as a normal life?  Would they understand most of what is going on around them?  How would they deal with or understand things like computers, the internet, ipods, phones, or video games just to name a few?

Why do I bring this up, you ask?  Because reading THE FRACTAL PRINCE (Amazon) by Hannu Rajaniemi made me feel like that person from the mid 1800’s coming to today.  I felt like someone who had been thrust into a world that I didn’t and almost couldn’t understand.  And I say that not as a bad thing.  I’m not gonna lie to you, this book was a tough read, especially at first.  Terms are thrown around and I had to make sense of them myself until the context of it gave me foundation for what the terms meant.  Still, I eventually figured this world out and it was a world full of wonders and problems.

I’ve tried writing down a synopsis of what this book is about several times.  And as much as I read it and think I understood THE FRACTAL PRINCE, I’m having a heck of a time trying to sum it up in only a few paragraphs.  The terms in the book that got in my way at first make it hard to tell you about some of the concepts.  You don’t know what those terms mean or why they should matter to you.  In fact the whole novel is so centered on this technology far far in the future that I’m just gonna give up.  Instead I’ll give you the synopsis from Amazon:

“The good thing is, no one will ever die again. The bad thing is, everyone will want to.”

A physicist receives a mysterious paper. The ideas in it are far, far ahead of current thinking and quite, quite terrifying. In a city of “fast ones,” shadow players, and jinni, two sisters contemplate a revolution.

And on the edges of reality a thief, helped by a sardonic ship, is trying to break into a Schrödinger box for his patron. In the box is his freedom. Or not.

Jean de Flambeur is back. And he’s running out of time.

See what I mean? If that synopsis doesn’t help you much, don’t worry.  It didn’t help me either.  This is not an easy book to tie down with a few sentences.  And I don’t think it’s supposed to be.

The world of THE FRACTAL PRINCE is a far-flung future that is utterly alient. That sense of wonder if the reason to read this book.

In the end the problem I had writing about this book is the problem I had with the book.  It seemed so in love with the technology that it failed to tell as compelling a story as I would have liked.  I can think back on it and remember some of the events and even some of the characters, but the problem was that all of that was so overshadowed just trying to figure out and understand the novel. It makes Rajaniemi’s follow-up to THE QUANTUM THIEF (EBR Review) a tough book to flat-out recommend.

I certainly enjoyed reading it and I loved the sensation of seeing a far-future that was so utterly alien.  That sense of wonder in my opinion is the reason to read the book.  The story was secondary to it.  If you like those big ideas and that scope and imagination then I would say THE FRACTAL PRINCE (and it’s predecessor) is for you.  If you want a rip roaring yarn that’s hard to put down because you just HAVE TO KNOW what’s going to happen next, then I might give it a pass.

  • Recommended Age: 16+, It just seemed rather complicated
  • Language: Not much that I recall
  • Violence: A bit here and there
  • Sex: A weird sci-fi-type scene at the beginning, not too graphic but certainly there

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