Monday, June 27, 2011

In which I talk only about The Quantum Thief

I finished Hannu Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief which was, I must agree, an impressive debut. For a string theorist, he writes well. (Joke. I have a daughter who's a physicist.) As other reviewers noted (I only read them after reading the novel), the book is rather laden with invented jargon, especially in the early going, which makes following the details quite a bit of work. Sometimes, you know what he means; sometimes, I'm convinced even he doesn't know what he means; I do think he's sometimes just having fun with us. (Really, she has a thermonuclear reactor in her hip?) I was unsure whether to take anachronistic phrasings (a computer-ship comments, "You go, girl!") as a sign that the author was being intentionally goofy or just careless. That character of the ship is perhaps too much of a common device, and it plays exactly the expected role once it's clear what that is. Therefore, much of the jargon and quasi-science serves to distract you from the more ordinary parts of the plot, though the plot as a whole is clever and interesting. And there are several intentionally silly moments—two otherworldly gamers dressed as Batman and Robin; the main character playing a part in a dance-death that spells out "memento mori"—along with sly genre references that let us know Rajaniemi is in on the joke.

Had I known it was part of a trilogy, I wouldn't have picked it up; I though I was signing on for a single book of not-extraordinary length. A lot gets resolved—the book mostly stands on its own—so I don't feel like I have to know "what's next." And it's not as if the characters made me want to stick around. The one interesting character, though, may be the subject of the next novel, if The Fractal Prince means who I think it does.

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