Warning: If you have not read The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi, do not read the review if you want to avoid spoilers. If you don’t mind spoilers or have already read the book, feel free to read!
I’m back with another book review! This time, it’s The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi. Here’s the summary so we know what it’s about:
“Jean le Flambeur gets up in the morning and has to kill himself before his other self can kill him first. Just another day in the Dilemma Prison. Rescued by the mysterious Mieli and her flirtatious spacecraft, Jean is taken to the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, where time is a currency, memories are treasures, and a moon-turned-singularity lights the night. Meanwhile, investigator Isidore Beautrelet, called in to investigate the murder of a chocolatier, finds himself on the trail of an arch-criminal, a man named le Flambeur…
Indeed, in his many lives, the entity called Jean le Flambeur has been a thief, a confidence artist, a posthuman mind-burgler, and more. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his deeds are known throughout the Heterarchy, from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of Mars. In his last exploit, he managed the supreme feat of hiding the truth about himself from the one person in the solar system hardest to hide from: himself. Now he has the chance to regain himself in all his power—in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed.”
First off, I like the overall concept of the story. Jean is stuck in prison where he constantly has to go against, well, clones of himself, and then he gets busted out of jail by Mieli, and somehow Isidore gets thrown into the whole mess.
Unfortunately, what I found confusing was that there were a lot of things in the book that lacked decent explanation. What is the phoboi? The Tzaddikim? The gevulot? Little to no explanations were given for these definitions at all early on, and they were not really explained later in the book, either. This really threw me off for majority of the book.
Plotwise, I felt that there could have been more continuity and consistency with what all the characters were doing. I felt like I was reading three separate plots regarding Jean, Mieli, and Isidore rather than a plot where their paths kept converging and them working through the situations they confront together. I don’t know if this was intentional on the author’s part to have it seem like I was reading three separate stories in the book rather than one story where the constant changes between their point of views actually added anything to the story, but the plot felt scattered as a result.
When it came to character development, I didn’t sense much of a change in any of the characters. I’m more surprised that Jean seemed to have little-to-no dialogue or detail in his point of view about what life was like in that prison during the time when he was in prison, or even after he was broken out. From what it sounded like, the prison Jean was stuck in was hellish, and it’s one thing if Jean was actively trying to avoid thinking about it because of how possibly traumatizing it is, but it’s another thing if that detail is completely ignored. I would have loved to read more on how Jean felt about his experiences in the prison, and I feel like it was a missed opportunity that it wasn’t touched on much in the book.
Isidore at first seemed interesting because he was so involved in the case involving a chocolatier’s murder. But that vein of trying to find the criminal got boring later on, and I lost interest in his character because the way he was written was very static. The same went with Mieli—at first she was interesting when she first arrived, breaking Jean out of jail and so on, but then her character development went static the rest of the time and I didn’t sense much of a development in her, either.
Overall, I’m giving this book a rating of 1 out of 5 stars mainly for the concepts it brought to the story but also for its mostly-failed execution of them, as well as the lack of character development.