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The Quantum Thief (Jean le Flambeur #1)

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  9,280 ratings  ·  1,062 reviews

Jean le Flambeur is a post-human criminal, mind burglar, confidence artist, and trickster. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his exploits are known throughout the Heterarchy— from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of Mars. Now he’s confined inside the Dilemma Prison, where every day he has to g

Paperback, 331 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Gollancz (first published 2010)
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The Quantum Thief by Hannu RajaniemiThe Blue Place by Nicola GriffithThe Scar by China MiévilleDreadnought by Cherie PriestAmong Others by Jo Walton
Meagan's Best of 2011 List
1st out of 15 books — 2 voters
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Books that left you happy for days
33rd out of 59 books — 40 voters

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Community Reviews

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There are authors who don't cotton to hand-holding, and then there are authors who drop you off in the middle of Times Square on New Year's Eve, distract you with a party favor, and then run the other way as fast as they can. Maybe you'll eventually find your way in the throng, even if you are tear-streaked and sniffling by the time you do (did I mention you are 5?). Maybe at the end of it you've learned something (most likely that there are a bunch of people in Times Square who desperately want ...more
Dan Schwent
After being busted out of the Dilemma Prison by an Oortian warrior named Mieli, legendary master thief Jean Le Flambeur is taken to the Oubliette, one of the Moving Cities of Mars, and is tasked with the ultimate heist. Opposing him is a brilliant young detective named Isidore Beautrelet. But there is more to each man's quest than meets the eye...

My summary doesn't do the book justice. There are so many ideas crammed in it's slim 331 pages. Before Le Flambeur can even get started on his quest, h
Kevin Hearne
This is the strangest book I have ever read. Here is why: I did't know what the hell was going on...but I loved it. Normally when I don't understand something—physics and calculus textbooks, for example—I stop reading and go have a beer instead. But somehow this book grabbed me and wouldn't let go.

That's not to say I never put it down. I had to put it down once in a while to let my brain heal. And my brain couldn't wait to get better and dive back in for some more words that made it hurt so good
5 Super big stars

3 times is a real charm with this masterpiece. After two rereads my love for this book is even more...

"Being about to become someone else is a thrilling feeling, a tickle of possibility in my gut. There must have been times when I flicked from one identity to another, posthuman, zoku, baseline, Sobornost. And that makes me want to be the god of thieves again, more than anything."

This is an unusual case for me in that I really found that I loved and appreciated this book so much
This review originally appeared at

The Quantum Thief, the debut novel from Finnish speculative fiction author (and uber-smart string theory expert) Hannu Rajaniemi, has been the source of much gossip and speculation since selling on the strength of its first chapter for a number involving plenty of zeroes. It’s a novel I’ve been eagerly anticipating, so I was rather delighted when the lovely team at Gollancz Australia sent me a copy for review. Needless to say, havin
Tanmay Tathagat
Sometimes in the matter of a sentence or two, a book can achieve a moment of pure beauty, which can elevate it to something beyond just a heist novel, Hard SF or any other conservative branding. Example:
I take her hand. She embraces me. She beats her wings and we rise up, through the glass sky, away from guns, memories and kings.
Similar sentences and passages of great beauty and wonder pepper this the narrative of this debut novel-which would be a great debut novel, if the people the sentences
Doc Opp
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take a class on quantum physics from the Swedish Chef? If so, this is the book for you. It almost reads like English. You can almost understand it. There are tantalizing glimpses of incredibly creative ideas and memorable characters. And then you get sentences like:

He set his gevulet to q-bomb the sapornov. Nano gogols shot through the web of the quantum lattice, setting a self-replicating sequence into his assailant's exomemory. Only 2 terrasecond
Chance Maree
The first chapter was one of the best I've read in a long time. Initially, I found it a bit of a struggle to adapt to the concepts and visuals, but the challenge was worthwhile. I ignored the glossary and list of characters on Wikipedia because I trust a good show-don't-tell style of writing. At times I had to re-read sections that twisted and fried my mind, but I consider that fun, if and only if, the reward is gratifying. And it was.

The elements of the story include a dense and fine mix of cu
There Will Be Invisibility Lotion For Ugly Lovers

This belongs to the "post-singularity" sub-genre of science fiction. "The singularity" was originally a name for a conceivable point in the future beyond which science fiction writers cannot extrapolate. Basically, the idea is that if we come to understand the human mind well enough to improve it through technology, and in particular our improvements make them better at the cognitive task of improving minds, then they'll be able to make even bette
Jenny (Reading Envy)
GR ate my first review, but no matter, it was a bit of a mess. This book is hard to explain to someone who hasn't read it.

In the world of The Quantum Thief, several species have made Mars their home, most living in what is called The Oubliette. Through quantum technology, people can choose what others can know, see, or remember about them. The entire planet is made of architecture that is constantly moving and changing in order to escape the phoboi, which are always trying to reinfest the landsc
Victor Tatarskii
I really don't remember last time when I was excited in such way by a book.
The story is set in a post-human future, where the humankind had achieved digital immortality and god-like powers, and splitted into fractions, each with a different vision of its future. A thief, Jean le Flambeur, escapes a prison of one of the fractions and tries to find his memories on Mars, in a moving city of Oubliette, where he had hidden them from himself.
The story is stuffed (thanks to the author's physics backg
Neal Asher
In a way this was more like a fast tour of the post singularity world rather than a story set in it. I’ve been reading science and science fiction for a very long time, but I often felt the need to hold up a finger and say, ‘Hang on Hannu, if you could explain –’ … but no, he’s gone like a tour guide on speed. The ideas hit you like cars in a motorway pile-up giving you no time to deal with them, absorb them. And, of course, while the ideas are hitting you like that you’re not properly processin ...more
I really think that selling on the strength of only a few thousand words for a rumored exorbitant amount of money is one of the worst things that can happen to a debut novel. Because let’s be honest here: nothing is that good.

Including this, a trippy and imaginative post human romp about a thief who can (and does) literally steal a moment of someone’s life away, and the detective chasing him. There is a lot of good stuff here, but it takes a while to come into play. Because seriously, when the o
The ultimate in nerd-boiled, maybe.

Protagonists are an Arsene Lupin and an Auguste Dupin, plus a Finnish soldier with a sentient ship (soldier and ship are great). Villains appear to be the Sobornost, which is an ancient orthodox Christian concept associated with slavophilia in the Russian Empire, a concept of the Old Right proper--nasty stuff, similar to Dostoevsky’s pocvennicestvo ideology. No surprise that the old Russian Empire is the model of the villain here, considering author is Finnish.
aPriL eVoLvEs (ex-Groot)


I used Google to find out the meanings of some words and names because they are non-English. Plus, I read the first 100 pages, then I went back and started reading from the beginning once more.

Speaking for myself, if I hadn't studied programming and database concepts in college, and currently maintain a subscription to New Scientist magazine, I would not have understood most of this book. Not only does it throw you bodily and without apology or explanation into a future world of digital li
Jul 02, 2011 Jeffrey rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: science fiction fans who want to go further out there
The Quantum Thief, a stylish debut novel from Hanno Rajaniemi, is a tad difficult to follow and understand. Its also a tour de force of imaginative invention, but its no Ender's Game. This is complicated story and weird environment. Its worth the time to dig through the main part of the story and even if the ending seems a little forced, the science fiction and weirdness of the story may be enough to keep you interested.

Jean Le Flambeur is a famous thief, presently a prisoner of the Archons, whe
This one is just about perfect. An excellent combination of questions about objective reality and questions about what it means to be human (objective humanity, as it were).

This compares best to Charles Stross's Accelerando, but is better written and overall a better read. (As a side note, this is one of the very few hard sci-fi books where I prefer the American cover to the British one.)

The inner portions of the solar system, inside the orbit of Mars, are controlled by the Founders - massively
Apr 14, 2012 David rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People not listening to this as an audiobook
The Quantum Thief is a brilliant novel, but I'm only giving it three stars. My rating is slightly unfair, so let me explain.

I generally rate books according to how good I thought they were (inasmuch as "good" can be objectively evaluated), and how much I enjoyed them; these two factors are usually closely related, but not always. The Quantum Thief, as many other reviews make clear, is an idea-dense novel. Right from the first chapter, you get terms flung at you without explanation: oubliette, Ge
The Quantum Thief is hard SF with a bit of a detective story and a heist story running as subroutines. I really enjoyed it, though it's in no way a book to read if you're feeling lazy. The world is built by showing you the things in it; you learn about things from context. This makes it hard to guess the plot ahead of time, because you don't know all the rules.

The characters were less intriguing than the plot and world; I'm interested in The Fractal Prince because I want to know how this plays o
Every now and again, when you finish reading a book, you want to turn back to page one and start all over again. This can happen for a number of reasons; sheer enjoyment, a lack of comprehension, a guilty feeling that you have read something good too quickly. All of these reasons contributed to my desire to turn back to the beginning when I finished this fantastic book earlier today.

The first novel of a Finnish mathematician, this Sci-fi novel - one of my favourite and oft-derided genres - is un
I found the beginning offputting -- felt like too much gratuitous high-techese. Of course, if you're trying to craft an immersive, realistic future how does one get around it? Hard to say. Guess that's what makes the truly brilliant novel stand out.

Once they get to Mars things settle down a bit and I found myself liking it quite a bit more. Unfortunately, the central hook is that hoary old trope -- lost memory. Fucking amnesia? In my high concept science fiction? I don't care how much public-key
Nov 21, 2012 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: SF afficionados will like it best
I’ve been struggling with how to begin this review. Let me put it this way, “This book is not for the faint-of-heart”. And, just what do I mean by that? It’s fast-paced, it’s very imaginative, it has strong characters, and it immerses the reader in itself. Enough with being cryptic.

As usual, I try to avoid giving too many details that could be spoilers (even though such information is readily available). In this review I veer towards a little more detail just to illustrate a point or two. They’r
I originally included the plot summary from Amazon in this review, but you know what? You can click up there and read it for yourself if you want, right? So let's shorten this up a bit.

I quite enjoyed this book; however, I can see that it would be annoying to someone who is not into hard sci-fi. The reader is dumped into confusing action and unfamiliar vocabulary and jargon without pause for explanation. About a third of the way in, the reader is handed some background, so if they hang on until
The Quantum Thief is a difficult book to describe. I suppose, at it's heart, it's a fast paced action novel about theif who is broken out of prison in order to steal something for those who helped him escape. That's true, but it hardly describes the surreal, strange world Hannu Rajaniemi has created.

It was a difficult book to grasp as the new world was never really explained and you just had to learn what a whole bunch of strange terms like Oubliette, Tzaddikim, Sobornost meant as you went along
Rarely am I so shaken, so gripped and so utterly fascinated by a book, especially by a debut novel, than I was by "The Quantum Thief". I am fairly new to the literature genre of science fiction, but I still can tell that this novel is skilfully planned, carefully plotted, and written with masterful skill.
While there were some difficulties in the rule we writers love to repeat time after time to each other, "show, don't tell", this novel was also a reminder that not all rules have to be followed
Although I would consider myself a fan of science fiction films and fiction, I only read a handful of science fiction novels a year. Around five or so, and those I've liked best in recent years are by writers like Ian MacDonald, Richard Morgan, and Connie Willis. I was drawn to this one partly due to the effusive critical reception it seemed to be getting, and partly because the plot summary invoked a kind of swashbuckling rogue at the center of the plot, and I love rogues as protagonists (think ...more
Megan Baxter
The Quantum Thief is bursting with so many ideas that it is an exhilarating read. What it needs is just a little more finesse, a slightly better pace for doling out information, for letting us play in this wonderful playground he's created. It is so complete, but so alien, and I needed just a little bit more of a guide. I like to flatter myself that I'm not an unperceptive reader, and I certainly don't mind it when authors don't tip their hands all at once and want me to work for it.

Note: The re
Es increíble como una persona puede tener una creatividad tan desarrollada. El autor de este libro concibe una realidad posthumana en donde el libro pasa a ser una especie de rompecabezas, suponiendo una lectura bastante exigente.

Es de los libros de ciencia ficción en donde la realidad se da conocida por el lector. Esto supone que el lector, hasta bien entrado el libro, esté bastante perdido. Desde el principio, y hasta el final, es un ejercicio de comprensión y búsqueda de términos. Intentas co
Felix Zilich
Первая попытка терраформировать Марс закончилась полным провалом. Тысячи воспроизводящих себя роботов-фобоев разбежались по планете, уничтожая на своём пути все живое. Во избежание бесконечных конфликтов с фобоями все марсианские города вынуждены теперь постоянно двигаться: кто-то быстрее, а кто-то медленнее.

Шагающий город Ублиетт - главный оплот марсианской демократии. После свержения королевской власти и уничтожения Юпитера здесь окопались даже последние враги Соборности из клана зоку.

Сюда ж
Mary Catelli
A wonderfully detailed future, filled with AIs and nanotechnology and space travel with Mars and the Oort Cloud colonized, and many other wonders -- and troubles.

It opens with a character in a prison where they are pushed through many, many, many variants of the Prisoner's Dilemma. And then, in the middle of one, someone breaks in -- someone from the Oort Cloud -- to rescue him. They need a thief. And their thief needs his memories back.

On Mars, Isidore is called in to inspect an ugly murder sce
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EN: Hannu Rajaniemi is a Finnish author of science fiction and fantasy, who writes in both English and Finnish. He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is a founding director of a technology consultancy company, ThinkTank Maths.

Rajaniemi was born in Ylivieska, Finland. He holds a B.Sc. in Mathematics from the University of Oulu, a Certificate of Advanced Study in Mathematics from the University of Ca
More about Hannu Rajaniemi...

Other Books in the Series

Jean le Flambeur (3 books)
  • The Fractal Prince (Jean le Flambeur, #2)
  • The Causal Angel (Jean le Flambeur, #3)
The Fractal Prince (Jean le Flambeur, #2) The Causal Angel (Jean le Flambeur, #3) Words of Birth and Death Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Third Annual Collection

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“The criminal is a creative artist; detectives are just critics.” 38 likes
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