Warning: mild spoiler alert, but nothing that will reveal the actual quantum of goodness that is Rajaniemi’s second novel in the Jean LeFlambeur series.
I read the first book – “The Quantum Thief” – based on Rajaniemi’s nomination for a “Best New Author” award. The accolades heaped on that book barely dent the surface of its sequel. Each of his books introduces hard scientific and computer sciences concepts that are central to the story, just far-fetched enough to be difficult to imagine today but fair extrapolations of current scenarios. Whether it is the intense, multi-layered privacy of
Three weeks, later, I’m still thinking about this one. He explores what it means to be human, not on a moral or physiological scale, but on a physical one. Are we primarily quantum or classical physics creatures? Do we give ourselves to the many-worlds or the open-ended possibilities of quantum physics, or the strictly procedural and well-known classical model? The dialectic is that of two views of science and faith, but with the roles reversed such that faith rides on the horse of harder science. “Fractal Prince” also convolves genres better than Robert Moog’s ring modulator: it’s Ocean’s Eleven and Charles Stross-deep sci-fi crossed with Vernor Vinge’s “True Names” and a noise injection from Frank Herbert’s Dune (axoltl and ghola indirect references) and Antoine de Saint Exuperay’s Little Prince to produces a “what really makes us human” opera.
The storytelling is fast paced and magnificent, and even if the first hundred pages are tough going until you grok the invented vernacular. Rajaniemi uses grammar and even punctuation to wonderful effect – changing a proper name to a lower-cased noun to differentiate a thing and copies of the thing, a self-referential Xerox and xerox copy. Layers upon layers of the story themselves form a set of quantum waves that collapse to your delight as you reach the conclusion. I just pre-ordered the third book in the trilogy, eager to see what LeFlambeur steals from — or gives to — this time.