The Quantum Thief
is a brilliant novel, but I'm only giving it three stars. My rating is slightly unfair, so let me explain.
I generally rate books according to how good I thought they were (inasmuch as "good" can be objectively evaluated), and how much I enjoyed them; these two factors are usually closely related, but not always. The Quantum Thief
, as many other reviews make clear, is an idea-dense novel. Right from the first chapter, you get terms flung at you without explanation: oubliette, Gevulot, gogol, Tzaddikim, Sobornost, etc. This is a transhumanist sci-fi novel where people and Artificial Intelligences coexist in a solar system where the human mind has been engineered and colonized as thoroughly as the inner planets. The plot involves all sorts of wheels-within-wheels conspiracies going back to the origins of the post-human societies presented here, and Rajaniemi doesn't do a lot of exposition.
I listened to The Quantum Thief
as an audiobook. I usually listen to audiobooks while I am driving or working out. In other words, my mind is not always 100% on the narration, and I can miss a bit here and there. So books where you have to pay attention to every single sentence or you might miss something important really aren't a good choice for me as an audiobook, and The Quantum Thief
is such a book. I had to go back and Wikipedia this sucker to figure out half the stuff I missed.
So there it is — I'd probably have liked it a lot more if I'd read it in print form. But what I did get out of it was brilliant, full of awesome tech and plots. The protagonist, Jean le Flambeur, begins the first chapter in a Dilemma Prison, which is the ultimate application of Game Theory. He's broken out by a beautiful winged warrior named Mieli with a sentient ship named Perhonen. Mieli needs Jean to do a little job for her. She doesn't trust him, with good reason, and the banter and the tension between them kept things interesting throughout the book. Jean le Flambeur, of course, is one of those master criminals with a sense of honor that you just know is going to end up being his undoing, as does he.
The second protagonist is Isidore Beautrelet, who begins the book investigating the murder of a chocolatier. Isidore is one of those obsessive Javert-like detectives who just can't let things go, though he's got his own personal problems.
Everything eventually weaves together in a way that probably made sense to someone who was more focused on the story than I was. There were certainly some awesome moments, though, and the writing is stylish and hip hard SF with a cyberpunk edge. Someday I may try this book again at more leisure and see if I am more captivated. So, 4 stars for being a cool setting and story in a universe that will appeal to fans of Alastair Reynolds or Charles Stross, 3 stars for not giving the lazy reader(listener) any breaks.