The Quantum Thief http://www.amazon.com/The-Quantum-Thief-ebook/dp/B004ULPVN6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1310216852&sr=1-1 , a stylish debut novel from Hanno Rajaniemi, is a tad difficult to follow and understand. Its also a tour de force of imaginative invention, but its not an easy world. This is complicated story and weird environment. Its worth the time to dig through the main part of the story and even if the ending seems a little forced, the science fiction and weirdness of the story may be enough to keep you interested.
Jean Le Flambeur is a famous thief, presently a prisoner of the Archons, when he is broken out of jail by Mieli, a flying alien, who seems to be working for a God. Mieli takes Flambeaur to Oubliette, a city at Mars, where she wants Flambeur to steal back himself — that is find the missing pieces of his past and put himself back together. She is tasked with controlling Flambeur, but its no easy task, but she has been specially enhanced with all manner of nano weapons and strength. She grew her own spaceship, which appears to be a completely self aware AI.
Oubliette is a flying city hovering over Mars. The people who reside there are divided into two groups — the people who live in real time and the Quiet Ones (the author’s words). The live ones live with a watch on their wrist which measures their time, their time as awake persons with lives, lovers etc. When your time is up, you are sent into the body of a machine and become a Quiet, used to build on Mars surface etc. The Quiet do not talk. But their sons and lovers can visit them and spend time with them.When your Quiet time ends you are rebodied, and your clock starts again. So some people have been rebodied multiple times.
The residents of Oubliette have access to exomemory, a system which provides them with a mental connection to their environment, knowledge about the past, actions that occurred, and general information – its like an internal link to the Internet. They use gevulot an Oubliette sense that gives you a perspective on your environment, but they can also open gevulot with another person and share co-memory. Think of it as an ability to intersect and feel your environment. The police on Oubliette can enter into the minds of people and explore their minds and memories. Its not a pleasant process.
Isidore is a detective, initially investigating the death of a chocolatear with the Gentleman, a masked Tzaddik (literally a rightous man), but in this context a specially talented super cop, who protects the denizens of the Oubliette. Isidore is dating another advanced citizen of the Oubliette named Pxil, whose people, the Zoku, a space clan live on the Oubliette. The Zoku also have ulterior motives on Oubliette. Isidore wants to become a tzaddik, but the Gentleman uses him because he is good at detecting.
When Flambeur arrives at Oubliette he drops like a bomb on the settled community (or what passes for settled) and brings change in his wakes. He meets younger versions of himself that leave him clues to how he split up himself so long ago. Time like everything else in this story is odd. People on Oubliette know him as Paul Sernine, and while there he lived with a woman.
The plot is divided into the perspectives of Flambeur as he tries to pierce what happened to him when he was last on the Oubliette and Isidore’s investigation into what Flambeur is doing. Its also an investigation of the power structure on Oubliette and how the transition from Quiet has been corrupted.
There are also monsterous interludes in the story, such as the story of Xuexue, who seems to be a murderer on a large scale, and seems totally unconnected to the whole story, but after you finish you will come back to it – or maybe you won’t and realize it’s a clue to the nature of the Oubliette.
It’s a story about prisons, the prisons in our mind and the prisons of our bodies and the prisons of our memory. It’s a story about how Flambeur unmasks the secret plots that control the Oubliette and its citizens, how even a God can be thwarted. It also uses time in interesting ways because as Flambeur steals himself back, it opens a door into his past – and in some ways his connection to Isidore and the Gentleman. At its heart it’s a story about how Flambeur, who dcecided to reshape his present by burying his past and the discoveries he makes when he tries to unmake that decision.
Ultimately there is a confrontation between Mieli, Flambeur, the power structure on Oubliette, the God and Isidore and the ending is a little pat, but the story that seems so hard to get into and understand, is understandable – maybe, that is if you can understand it.