Saturday, January 5, 2019

Book Review: The Quantum Thief

book cover for The Quantum ThiefThink of this as a post-Singularity heist story. The main character is modeled after Arsène Lupin, a gentleman thief from a series of stories by Maurice Leblanc. You don't need to know Lupin (or Lupin the Third) to appreciate the story—I certainly didn't.

Rajaniemmi does a superb job imagining what life could be like for our digital descendants. While there are several "interludes" that assist the reader in understanding this world, Rajaniemmi throws the reader in the deep end of the pool from the start, forcing us to gather the meanings of new words from context in order to swim through the story. I'd imagine that plenty of readers have drowned along the way.

The story starts with our hero, the gentleman thief, in a dilemma prison. Shortly thereafter, he's busted out of said prison, for a price, and whisked off to Mars to retrieve his memories. His rescuer/employer is Mieli, a woman who needs him to pull off a heist to rescue her lover, a secret she keeps hidden from him. The other major character is Isidore, a promising young detective in the mobile city of Oubilette on Mars. He starts off as a bit of a puppy dog, trying to please the tzadikkim, a group of highly respected vigilantes in the city, but gradually comes into his own.

While some futurists will have you believe that the Singularity will bring paradise, Rajaniemmi posits a future where that certainly isn't the case. Equality is a lie. Some of those responsible for forging Creation 2.0 have granted themselves far greater powers for their uplifted minds than others. Rajaniemmi's new gods are just as capricious as the ancient ones, and their struggle for power always leaves mere mortals as collateral damage.

The malleability of memory is an important theme running through the book. It seems that our digital descendants have a harder time with memory than our analog selves. While memories can be shared, it appears that they can be forged as well. While we've been struggling with disinformation on the internet the last few years, at least there's a way to uncover the truth. That doesn't seem so easy here when collective memories can be overwritten. The truth has never been so fragile.

There are many interesting elements that I'm not going into such as time as currency, personality pirates, multi-level privacy shields, matter shaped by thought, death as a time of public service, and so on. Recommended for sci-fi fans looking for something challenging and different.

A solid four stars.


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