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_The Quantum Thief_, by Hannu Rajaniemi
Bar Harbor
Charlie Stross has been highly recommending this book (by a friend of his) for some time now. I picked up a copy at Boskone, and was not disappointed.

It's set in a seriously post-human solar system. There are enclaves of characters who are still within spitting distance of human understanding, including our protagonists, but these are working under the shadow of beings of vastly greater power and complexity -- gods, for all intents and purposes.

The fantastical setting is grounded by a set of characters and plot devices that would be familiar to a 19th century audience. The greatest thief ever is broken out of prison by a mysterious woman whose employers need him to do a special job. The woman is, herself, very moral, and has been coerced unwillingly into working with the thief; they develop a fairly classic love/hate relationship. And then they are inevitably drawn into contact with the Great Detective, whose love of justice propels him to oppose them. Which is not to say that the story (or characters) are simple or trite. Rather, they are approachable, and reveal their complications and depths gradually over the course of the novel.

On the flip side, this is the sort of novel that demands a lot of faith and attention from the reader. The author uses a lot of specialized invented vocabulary, and tends to use a word for a few chapters before getting around to explaining what it actually means. He does have a good feel (in my opinion) for when to do his incluing, but it wouldn't surprise me if some readers found it a turn-off. He also uses a lot of real-world jargon for actual (or at least hypothetical) high end physics stuff. But if you just treat it all as 'sufficiently-advanced' to be effectively magic, you won't be far off.

Structurally, this is one of the most satisfying novels I've read in a long time. The author carefully sets up shotguns on walls, then takes them down and shoots them, in the proper order; developments are surprising, but obvious in hindsight. The novel turns out to be about far more than the McGuffin, but only slowly eases into that. Everything wraps up into a very satisfying emotional closure. ...And then there's one more chapter, which reminds you that the gods are still out there, and that *they* aren't done with our heroes.

I'm not sure if I want a sequel or not. The door is clearly open for one, but I have difficulty imagining that a sequel could be as satisfying without the slow character revelation that powered so much of this novel. On the other hand, the author has earned enough good will with me that I'd definitely buy it.

[Side note: I think fans of the classic computer game Planescape: Torment will particularly enjoy this book. There are some unexpected structural similarities.]

Highly Recommended.

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I can't remember - have you read Anathem? If so, how did you feel about it?

I have not. kestrell did, and gave it a decidedly mixed review. In general, I think Stephenson's work has been bloated since _Cryptonomicon_, the last of his I read. It's not that I think they're necessarily bad stories, just that they have an insufficient coolness/page ratio to be worth the time.

By contrast, _The Quantum Thief_ clocks in at a mere 330 pages, and kept the action going at a fine pace throughout.

That's on my list of books still to acquire for potential Hugo nominations. Can I borrow it?

You are welcome to, though our paths don't often cross in meatspace these days. Are you involved in Measure for Measure? If so, I can send it to a rehearsal with Vis.

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