BooksOfTheMoon

Invisible Planets

By Hannu Rajaniemi

Rating: 4 stars

I first became aware of Hannu Rajaniemi through The Quantum Thief and its sequels. I knew that he could have some dazzling ideas very well implemented in the long form, but didn’t know how he was at the short. This collection shows that he’s very assured there as well. This collection contains a mix of big idea space opera, Finnish mythology and micro-fiction. The first looks at the after-effects of being a god and the second is full-blown giant-scale space opera. It’s with the third, that we come right back down to the human scale with the story of a girl on her own on the moon.

I loved His Master’s Voice, a story about uplifted animals trying to find their lost master. Other highlights are The Jugaad Cathedral about what happens when we lose control of our computing devices, and the inventive ways people will find around it, if it’s important enough; and Paris, In Love is a delightful little tale about what happens when a city falls in love with a Finn. My favourite story in the collection is probably Skywalker of Earth, a loving pastiche of E. E. Doc Smith’s Skylark stories, updated for the 21st century but I was also intrigued by the idea behind Snow White is Dead, an interactive fiction designed to work with an EEG headset. The collection is rounded off with a number of micro-stories that Rajaniemi had written on Twitter which were fun enough to make me start following him.

I was less keen on some of the more down to earth stories, which often fell back on Finnish mythology as their backdrop. This is probably because I’m unfamiliar with the original myths, so am probably missing some layers and entry points into the stories.

So a good collection from someone with a great, and well-deserved, reputation as a rising star in the genre.

Book details

ISBN: 9781473210233
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2010

The Causal Angel (Jean le Flambeur, #3)

By Hannu Rajaniemi

Rating: 4 stars

Perhonen is dead, Mieli is in the hands of the Zoku and Jean le Flambeur is in a tiny ship escaping from the ruins of Earth and trying to keep his promises. The Causal Angel really throws you in at the deep end here, picking up immediately after The Fractal Prince left off, with Earth destroyed, but with its last city, Sirr, preserved as information, awaiting a new home. The All-Defector is loose and only a mysterious artefact known as the Kaminari Jewel can prevent it and the Sobernost from taking over the solar system.

This book doesn’t give us any flamboyant new worlds or civilisations, but takes a longer, deeper look at an established one: the Zoku, who have been mentioned in passing in the past, and played a role in The Quantum Thief, but here we find out more about them, their origins in gaming clans and their politics and how it shapes the system.

Rananiemi’s relentless ‘show, don’t tell’ approach can be exhilarating, but also rather exhausting, especially when you’re trying to remember something that happened two books ago using only memory and Wikipedia references as guides. I think this trilogy would really sit from being read back to back, without having a year between books, especially now that I’ve been through it once, and have some knowledge of what googals, the Oubliette, the founders and so forth are. Maybe someday, in my copious (!!) quantities of spare time.

Despite it all, however, le Flambeur and Mieli are great characters who you urge on through all their trials and tribulations and the worlds that Rajaniemi has created are fantastic and deserve to be enjoyed and praised. And through the whole book, the Perhonen-shaped hole is a presence in its own right, shaping the actions of both the Thief and the Warrior and sealing the fate of the Universe.

Great space opera and great fiction. As long as you’re willing to put in the effort, you’ll be rewarded in spades.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575088979
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2014

The Fractal Prince (Jean le Flambeur, #2)

By Hannu Rajaniemi

Rating: 4 stars

The sequel to Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief, this novel continues the story of master thief Jean le Flambeur and his quest for a great heist in exchange for his freedom, accompanied by a sardonic spaceship and a mistrustful Oortian assassin.

The Quantum Thief was the set-up, introducing us to le Flambeur’s post-Singularity world through the relatively sedate city of the Oubliette on Mars. This time the action takes place on the ancient homeworld itself, Earth. This book has a very Arabian Nights feel to it, particularly the segments following a woman called Tawwadud in the city of Sirr on Earth. With djinn, flying carpets and stories within stories, those segments are a marvellously energetic collision of old and new, of the technology within the ancient names, of stories and the meaning and value of stories.

Le Flambeur is as charming and ruthless as before, willing to use other people to get what he wants, but with a conscience and his own code of ethics. He wants to be redeemed, but he wants his freedom more, and is willing to do anything to win it.

Like its predecessor, this book doesn’t pander to the reader, with a show-don’t-tell approach that can leave you floundering at times. Stick with it and it will pay off, although after I read the final volume in the trilogy, I’m going to have to go back and read them all in quick succession to get a better feel for it.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575088924
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2012

The Quantum Thief (Jean le Flambeur, #1)

By Hannu Rajaniemi

Rating: 4 stars

Jean le Flambeur is a thief. Broken out of prison by the agent of a god, he has to find his own hidden memories in a place where memory and privacy of mind and body can be absolute, or so its inhabitants think.

This is a fascinating book, with ideas coming thick and fast, right from the first page. When we meet le Flambeur for the first time, he’s an uploaded mind in a very real version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. From there, the pace doesn’t let up, with new words being thrown at you, and often not really explained, leaving the reader to work them out from context. It’s certainly a book that doesn’t patronise the reader and would reward rereading. So I’ll add it to my already extensive reread list (which never gets any shorter as I always have a stack of books to read for the first time!).

There’s obviously a lot of thought gone into the worldbuilding here and it’s drip-fed to us slowly throughout the book, with more to come in the sequel. And speaking of the sequel, although the main story of this book was completed within this novel, the overall story is to span a trilogy, and, indeed, hasn’t really been touched on in this volume. Le Flambeur was broken out of prison to carry out a theft for his liberator’s employer, but he can’t do that until he gets his memories back. This book is that story, with the theft itself barely mentioned. But despite that, I’m pretty hooked and will look forward to reading the rest of this trilogy.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575088894
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2010

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