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The Quantum Magician

(The Quantum Evolution #1)

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  3,983 ratings  ·  413 reviews
“An audacious con job, scintillating future technology, and meditations on the nature of fractured humanity” - Yoon Ha Lee

“Technology changes us—even our bodies—in fundamental ways, and Kunsken handles this wonderfully” - Cixin Liu


Belisarius is a Homo quantus, engineered with impossible insight. But his gift is also a curse—an uncontrollable, even s
Kindle Edition, 500 pages
Published October 2nd 2018 by Solaris
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Derek Künsken Thanks so much for your kind words! Yes, it's basically the same edition, but the book form has more explicit swearing that the Analog Magazine editor…moreThanks so much for your kind words! Yes, it's basically the same edition, but the book form has more explicit swearing that the Analog Magazine editor and I cleaned up for the serialization because Analog circulates in some high schools.(less)

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Manuel Antão
Oct 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Homo Quantus: "The Quantum Magician" by Derek Künsken

A Quantum brain! I don't think evolution would have ever be able to produce such a complex computer, made of tissue. Think about how a Quantum computer work; it's happening in our heads! I swallowed a transformer toy back in the eighties so I'm ahead of the curve on this one.

Roughly speaking, quantum information is unique: you cannot destroy it, you can teleport it, but you cannot cl
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
5-Stars! Outrageously Imaginative!

On Sale in the UK for 99 pence today!

Delicious hard science, even to the mysteries of quantum unknowns, quantum possibilities. Great prose, fabulous characters, far better than any "Oceans 11" rip-off you could imagine. Rigorously founded in real science, and extrapolating wonderfully into sci-fi; I'm happy to watch various physical laws be broken now and then for such a great heist plot!

As usual with my reviews, please first read the publisher’s blurb/summary
I have no problems raving about this book. It has everything I love about SF and then I get the best things I love about the thriller/mystery genre.


At first, I believed this was written as a homage or a more accessible version of Hannu Rajaniemi's Quantum Thief, and I was right... to a degree. It forwent the truly odd stuff and gave us a readable and full explanation of quantum mechanics and name-dropped a few more while throwing us into a more widespread future that never quite touched
David Katzman
I’ve read several science fiction/fantasy novels recently that all springboard off quantum physics (while at the same time reading several actual science books about quantum physics). At a high level, I’d summarize them as follows:

Quarantine (Subjective Cosmology #1) by Greg Egan is a mind-blowing far-future series that starts with a very hard-science premise grounded in quantum physics theory and then pushing the theory to an extreme.

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi (and the entire
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally posted at

The multifarious, space-faring human civilization Derek Künsken envisions for his debut novel The Quantum Magician relies on a network of wormholes to move from system to system. Powerful patron nations control all the wormholes while subordinate client nations must contract with patrons to use them. The Sub-Saharan Union, a small client nation, longs for independence from the hegemonic Congregate, which controls access to the only wor
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was overjoyed to come across this on a 'best books of October list' that I instantly grabbed a copy as it sounded right up my reading street. I have a soft spot for science fiction so long as it has an original and intriguing premise, and this most certainly did. I mean, what could be better than the heist of a lifetime... in space? Trust me, you have never read a book like this before. Make no mistake, this is hard science fiction at its absolute best, and a simply magnificent full-length deb ...more
May 01, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Some books you know almost immediately aren’t going to work for you. And yet the obsessive compulsive reader might feel compelled to finish them anyway. And that kinda sucks. And yes, I am such a reader, a completist by nature. And this one had such a promising premise and title and turned out to be such a chore to get through. From page one it was just too…sciency, for the lack of a more appropriate word. Sure it is science fiction, some science is to be expected, but this was positively overlo ...more
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?” Robert Browning

Will you like this book as much as I did? Let’s find out.

You must have your geek on and be ready for one of the most challenging “whitewater rides” you have ever taken through genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, nano-technology, astrophysics, exo-biology, and a plethora of planets and species that stretch the term “human.”

Belisarius Arjona is a self-described con man. He is also part of an augmented
Peter Tillman
This is a good debut novel that could have been better with tighter editing. Inside this 480 page book is a first-rate 300 or 350-page novel struggling to get out. Still worth reading, though Künsken seems to assume that 21st century physics (the Standard Model) will persist into the indefinite future. OK, there's plenty of great superscience stuff too, some halfway plausible. I always love to see inexplicable Forerunner tech, here an ancient Wormhole subway system that provides FTL links to the ...more
Apr 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tbr-clean-2020
Just how I like my sci-fi, weird, techy, made up words and space! This is an Oceans Eleven in space (except there were only 8 of them) with space guns and space ships and space people and tons of modified humans. It really was fun even if it was heavily inspired by the movie above. A sweet con job with all the geek stuff that I love. 4.5 stars.
It's a heist story. A simple heist story where one party needs some thing(s) moved from A to B at the risk of upsetting the authorities.

A simple heist story set in the future. And in space.

A simple heist story where humans aren't only human anymore. Not all of them anyway. So it's a simple heist story set in the distant future, in space, with humans and sub-species of humans. Sub-species suggests a hierarchy, which would suggest resentment and the potential for conflict. Maybe this isn't that
Aug 18, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up
Full disclosure: Review ARC provided by, in kindle format.

I was unable to finish this book. I read the first 25% and was interminably bored by the setup. While the plot seems to be the setup of an ensemble heist story, more than the first quarter of the book is just a setup to that ensemble. The main character is a flat stereotype without any personality, and the side characters (bar one) lack any hooks that would make me think there is something to them. There is neither humor no
Jul 30, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. This debut novel from Derek Künsken has a lot going for it. In particular, some creative and quite unusual hard sci-fi concepts, much of it based on the bio-engineering of specialized human sub-species, some fascinating world building, plus an interesting heist themed plot. However, the storytelling suffers to some extent from overdone character stereotypes and frequently trite dialogue. Also, with a ton of characters, locations, factions, alliances, and more twists than you can shake ...more
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
The Quantum Magician is the debut sci-fi novel from Derek Künsken. It’s a book nominally about a heist and a con, moving some impossibly precious things from one place to another without interacting with the intervening authorities. But it’s also a story about humanity and transhumanism; about the way people are willing to change themselves or others to adapt to an environment, and about the costs that are born out of that decision. It’s about old friendships and new alliances – the trust you ca ...more
Kara Babcock
For a while now, I’ve been eschewing posthumanism. Walking on the wild side of nanotechnology was starting to get too much like science fantasy for my tastes. The Quantum Magician is an exception that I’m happy I made: Derek Künsken’s story of a genetically engineered con artist is delightful, and it explores posthumanist ideas in a way that feels fresh. Although I wouldn’t say any of the characters (not even the protagonist) endeared themselves to me, the plot is enjoyable and thought-provoking ...more
A fast-paced action-oriented space opera that at its core is a heist/con, like Oceans 11 or The Sting. Like all good such stories, the reader is never quite let in on the whole plan. Set in a far-future with a number of imaginatively genetic- and bio-engineered races, and a motley gang of misfits, thieves & crazies pulled together for a really big job. The diverse characters are each unique, a bit wacky and engaging. The societies created by the various engineered races of humanity equally imagi ...more
Hélène Louise
Many thanks to Solaris and Netgalley for this read :)

I was very excited to read this book, but also a little apprehensive. In theory I love hard science-fi, because it seems so real, so true, so possible. But in practice, I'm easily lost: most hard science-fi books dwells on physics and, if I know that universe and space mean physics, and if I'm genuinely interested in the subject, it's alas a case of unrequited love there... I love science in general, but my kind of science is clearly biology 
Quintin Zimmermann
Belisarius Arjona was taught by a con man that there are only three bets: "Sometimes, you play the cards. Sometimes, you play the player. Sometimes, you just throw the dice."

Well, as the Quantum Magician, Bel played all three simultaneously in the ultimate con. For you see, Bel is a Homo quantus, born from a scientific project founded upon the precept that consciousness collapses quantum systems into clear outcomes, as epitomised by Schrodinger's cat. A Homo quantus brain has been engineered at
Sarah (CoolCurryBooks)
There are two things you should know about me: I love science fiction and fantasy novels… and I also adore heist stories. So stories that combine the two? I have a desperate desire for.

That being said, The Quantum Magician should have been a slam dunk. A far-future sci-fi story about a proto-human conman pulling off a heist? As soon as I heard the premise, I ran to request an ARC. Unfortunately, The Quantum Magician didn’t do it for me.

Belisarius is the titular quantum magician, a proto-human en
This was like a four star book spliced together with one that I would barely give two stars to. It made for a disjointed reading experience; I alternated back and forth between invested and bored so much I got a little dizzy.

This is a heist novel, and our con-man is Bel; a genetically engineered human who can manually enhance his brain to view quantum states. (If, like me, you barely understand quantum physics the book actually does a really good job of explaining it. Don't let this be a deal-b
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, codexians
My background in quantum theory consists of understanding about one sentence in three in the quantum theory chapter of Goedel, Escher, Bach (which I thought was reasonably good going). And that was some years ago, so I am far from qualified to talk about the physics of this book.

That didn't matter to my enjoyment of the story; I just took the various bits of esoteric physics as sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic, and concentrated on following the complicated hei
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Publishing Date: October 2018

Publisher: Rebellion

ISBN: 9781781085707

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 4.7/5

Publisher’s Description: Balisarius is a quantum man, created to serve, made for a world that requires every moment to be monitored. He flees—his creators, his supposed place in the world, his purpose—to curve out a normal life. Now, he is the world’s most infamous con-man. When a client offers him untold wealth to move a squadron of warships across an enemy wormhole, Belisarius must embrace his true nat
Don Dunham
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Kunsken channeling Iain M. Banks. A great caper story set in the distant future in a solar system far away. Hard-ish Science Fiction. Rated PG-13 for language and adult situations. Definitely waiting for this Author's next book.
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really effective twisty heist where you never know what the real-real-real-real plan is, a vivid cast of characters, and a fascinating SF world with no aliens, but humans bio-engineered to the point that really you can't tell. (No bio-engineer in this world has ever glanced at an ethics class.) Page-turner to read that legit kept me distracted at the covid-test clinic, for which I will be forever grateful.

There is some really fascinating care put into the impact that bio-engineering would have
Let's Geek
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
Read the full review also on my blog Let's Geek:

The Quantum Magician is Oceans Eleven in Space, on steroids (I thought I was especially clever but turns out other people called it this before as well, damn it!)

Total Rating: 8.1/10

Originality: 8/10
Language: 8/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Characters: 9/10
World building: 10/10
Fun: 7/10
Predictability: 7/10
Believable: 7/10
Relevancy: 8/10
Cover: 9/10

Genre: Sci Fi
Time It Took Me To Read: approx. 5 hours

Are you a science f
This was an odd one. A hard scifi con game with really big stakes. I found this a little rushed, the timing not quite sitting right with me, but the concepts kept me going. It was worth it in the end, the Homo Quantus story line was really cool. But yeah, an odd one, i dont really know how to review it tbh
Nadja Miller
I was given an advance copy to write an honest review. This book has wonderful world building. If you like Oceans 11 you will probably like this book (by the way I never liked any of those movies). Arjona is a quantum magician, this means that he has a computer for a brain but really wants to be a “real boy”. I do not know if Arjona is a play on words for the hero of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna, who had a dilemma about fighting
Arjona is asked to transfer some ships through a gate. He gathers a tea
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this as a serial in three consecutive issues of Analog SF Magazine. I believe it is coming out as a paperback in October 2018.
An excellent story, far too complex for me to summarise here. In short, it is Oceans 11/The Sting in a SF context. If you like hard SF, this is the book for you - recommended!
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Deeply original and creative - David Brinish. Not sure of the author’s background, but I’d be surprised if he wasn’t a scientist of some form. A very impressive debut novel. Only negative is that the next book in the series isn’t yet available.
May 06, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Tried to finish it, but simply couldn't. Lots of interesting ideas, most of which take far too long to explain, and the character development wasn't sufficient to offset the wordy prose.
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Space Opera Fans : April 2020 READER Quantum Magician by Künsken 8 32 Aug 01, 2020 10:45AM  

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“I’ve found out how to move past my instincts, as all rational beings must.” “Hollow words, Arjona. We certainly all have to fulfill our programming, no matter who the programmer.” 3 likes
“The Anglo-Spanish penal system either struck visitors as refreshingly civilized or as stingingly rapacious. Sentences could be commuted or pardoned for large cash payments, or for the transfer of assets such as stock or annuities. Absent this, prison corporations happily extended moderate-interest sentence-mortgages to a sponsor, or even to parolees themselves. Visitors could buy different levels of access to the prison via a transparent list of escalating fees, which in the Congregate would have been called bribes. Some nations just did prisons better than others.” 2 likes
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