What do all these names have in common? They are members of the privileged class who, for one reason or another, make their living as thieves.
In The Quantum Thief by Finnish author Hannu Rajaniemi, we meet the last of these – Jean le Flambeur – in prison. Sentenced to die repeatedly in a series of video game-like scenarios until he can convince his warlike and violent partner to work together. So far, he’s not having any luck, but then a sentient ship, the Perhonen, and her pilot Mieli break him out of prison at the bidding of Miele’ goddess. And we are catapulted into an adventure that was so complicated and so damn interesting, I can barely describe it.
Jean is competing with his other self – the self that locked him into the body he currently has – his ex-lover, and the arch-detective who his following his trail after the death of a chocolatier.
Rajaniemi writes at a blazing pace and he presumes you can keep up. From the Oubliette, a shtetl filled with Qabalistic references, to the gaming Zoku of space and the Vir, the virtual realities of a dozen different simultaneous layers of existence and society, you are expected to grasp the obscure and the created knowledge with equal fluency and speed.
I loved this book.
Which is all well and fine, Erica, you say, a hint of impatience in your voice, but why are you reviewing it?
Because of Mieli. Mieli is an Oortian, a tribe of people who are portrayed as rather…Finnish…in a mythological manner of speaking. Mieli’s former lover was Sydan, another woman with whom she had a complicated and involved history. Mieli is currently seeking Sydan, who disappeared when Earth was destroyed. Mieli now serves the Founder, pelligrini. Along with her sentient ship, the Perhonen, Mieli is as critical to the plot as Jean is…although I might put Perhonen slightly higher on the cast listing.
If you’re confused about now, no worries, this was just the vaguest, most superficial taste of the high-density information dump that is The Quantum Thief.
Did I mention that I loved it?
Mieli is another cool, competent lesbian, with a nicely melancholy backstory. She’d fit nicely enough with all the cool lesbian detectives of the 1990s. Kate Delafield, meet Mieli. You’ll get along swimmingly.
Story – 10
Characters – 9 all the way around
Lesbian – 3, but it’s there
Overall – 10
I adore writers who assume I can keep up with them, and Rajaniemi is the best I’ve ever read in this regard.This book relies on obscura and slang from Japanese, Russian, Yiddish and a few other languages, but if you’re a patient reader, everything is given context in an Escher kind of way. Just hang on for the ride.
Thanks to bestie Daniel H for the recommendation – you are now among the very few who can recommend things to me. ^_^