Jean Le Flambeur

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I pity those who read “The Quantum Thief” by Hannu Rajaniemi shortly after it was published and had to wait two years for “The Fractal Prince” and again two years for “The Causal Angel”. That’s because this trilogy is actually one huge story.

There’s so much going on here and so many things, that make their first appearance in the first volume, are explained in the second or third. It’s dubbed a space opera by some while others complain that it only takes place in our own solar system and so on a far too small scale to be a space opera. Even though the spaceships only visit Venus, Earth, Mars and Saturn, the actual action is grand enough for me to call it a space opera.

The protagonist here is a Jean Le Flambeur who is said to resemble Arsène Lupin. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, because I never read a Lupin novel and the last movie featuring him, that I remember watching, bored me somehow. Anyways, Jean is what you’d call a gentleman thief and throughout all three volumes he steals or tries to steal things, but while the original Lupin would steal crown jewels, Le Flambeur steals quantum information and other science-fictionally fantastical things.

The whole setup is really crazy. There is an organization called the Sobornost trying to finish the “Great Common Task” which involves uploading all humans into big planetary sized computers. It’s like a new kind of socialism inspired by the Soviet Union.

Then there is another group — a group of gamers — who spend their time in virtual realities called Realms and for whom even the war against the Sobornost is a game.

And then there are people of flesh and blood who just don’t want to be uploaded.

The books are filled with nerd talk to the brim. Here’s one piece I took the time to write down while reading:

There are two problems, really. The first is that we can’t solve any hard problems. Not really. Anything that’s NP-complete. The Travelling Salesman. Pac-Man. They’re all the same. All too hard.

Kindle’s feature of not only displaying a dictionary definition for a word but also being able to look it up in Wikipedia, was really helpful here. Regularly I came across terms that a Wikipedia entry would identify as culturally belonging to Russian or Japanese history.

The books are really crazy and if you’ve read any books about virtual realities, singularities and transhumanism then those will probably look like children’s play compared the the Le Flambeur books. Many of the concepts presented here are just fantastical and seem to be totally impossible, but then, no one can really know, how transhumanism would really work. And it’s a real joy to read those nerdy novels.

So I highly recommend those books and also to take the time to read them directly one after the other without any breaks.