Intimidating sequel to The Quantum Thief (2011), Rajaniemi’s spectacular, paranoid-conspiracy, hard sci-fi whodunit debut.
Thief extraordinaire Jean le Flambeur owes his continued existence to the Oortian warrior Mieli, her intelligent spaceship Perhonen, and her mysterious patron, the pellegrini. To pay the debt, he must execute another impossible heist: to loot the mind of a member of the Sobornost, the upload collective that rules Earth and whose ultimate goal is total control of reality itself. His target is Matjek Chen, the oldest of the Sobornost “chens,” or avatars. On Earth, meanwhile, the Lady Tawaddud of House Gomelez, rulers of the Sirr, a city built out of the Shard, the habitable fragments of a vast crashed Sobornost spaceship, must solve a murder that threatens the ruling council. She will need help from Sumanguru, a sort of detective Sobornost avatar who, like all his kind, is vulnerable to the wildcode which swarms in from the desert. Tawaddud’s father, Cassar, has selected a husband for her, but she trusts him even less than her sister Dunyazad, who seems less interested in solving the murder than keeping Tawaddud in her place. Above it all, seemingly, the Sobornost conduct their Great Game against the mysterious zoku, who manifest as magnificent jewels and have solved problems the Sobornost are unable to. This is all set forth within complex, intricately structured stories-within-stories, neologisms that yield meaning only after many repetitions and changes of context, and never a word of explication to smooth the way. Formidably challenging, with few of the thrills and spills that made the predecessor volume such a delight—would that Rajaniemi had kept at least some of his vast intellectual capacity tucked out of sight—but, mostly, rewarding.
Something like Ted Chiang meets John C. Wright, moderated by Stephen Hawking.