The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi – Book Review [Bane of Kings]

The Quantum Thief

Bane of Kings writes a review of the hard sci-fi novel The Quantum Thief, a debut novel by Hannu Rajaniemi, published by Gollancz in the UK. It is the first novel in a series, and has been hailed as the best Sci-Fi debut of 2011.

“Fascinating imagination, a fast paced read that doesn’t have any wasted pages. Highly Recommended.” ~The Founding Fields

On this thread here, I mentioned about The Quantum Thief being one of the novels that I missed in 2011 that I wanted to pick up and read. Well, I did pick up and read it eventually, and found myself enthralled, despite being a bit confused, by Rajaniemi’s first journey into the realm of the published authors.

The Quantum Thief itself stands just over three hundred pages long, so is by no means a long, gruelling read like some other novels that I’ve read recently. What it is though, is a whole lot of fun. The novel introduces us to the super-thief Jean Le Flambeur, who has made a mistake and ended up in the endless, looping reality of the Dilemma Prison. However, a chance of salvation comes from Mieli and her spidership, named Perhonen. She offers the thief a chance to win back his freedom, with one condition. He must find claim back the identity that he once was, and to do this – he must journey to the city of Oubliette, but he’s not going to get there easily. He has the young detective Isidore on his tail, as well as several local law enforcers – so getting back his identity isn’t going to be as easy as it first looked.

No matter how many Sci-Fi novels that you’ve read, I believe you will find yourself confused somewhat towards the beginning of The Quantum Thief. You won’t know what things are, why they’re there, and what they do. However, as the novel goes on, you start to get used to it. You start to sit back, and you start to enjoy it.

This is not just hardcore science fiction, for The Quantum Thief manages to include a heist as well, and I’ve really enjoyed heist fiction across a multitude of genres ever since I watched the classic Italian Job movie as a kid. Since then, I’ve gone onto see and read stuff like Inception, and others of the subgenre that hardly ever fail to disappoint. The Quantum Thief is no different, and whilst there is a whole lot going on in Rajaniemi’s first novel, (yes, this is his first novel), I really enjoyed it once I got used to it. It was a fun read, and one that has managed to make me look forward to more by this author.

The characters themselves are well developed and a joy to behold. Isidore, Mieli, Jean Le Flambeur, even Perhonen, the spider ship, are well created and well thought out. I can tell that Rajaniemi’s certainly put a lot of thought into this novel, and has executed it brilliantly.

Told through a mixture of perspectives, from the first person point of view of Jean Le Flambeur, to the third person point of view of everybody else, The Quantum Thief manages to keep you hooked as soon as you’ve understood what was going on.

That was the only major problem that I had with this dazzling debut. Sure, I really enjoyed it, but I can’t help feel that the author could perhaps have taken the time to explain to the reader more about the universe that The Quantum Thief was set in. I know this would probably slow down the tremendously fast pace, though.

If you’re a fan of science fiction though, despite what I’ve just mentioned, I believe you’ll enjoy this novel. It’s a superbly written tale where the pro’s far outweigh the con’s, and I believe what I just mentioned is the only flaw that I had with Rajaniemi’s creation.

Jean Le Flambeur is the main character in this novel, as one would expect from the blurb. He is an enjoyable character, easy to like and easy to root for.  In fact, most of the characters in this novel are likeable, particularly the ones who I like to call, “the big three”, of Jean, Mieli and Isidore.

Fast paced for most of the novel, it will be a joy to read If you just allow yourself to breeze through it, and not stop to wonder what on earth (or elsewhere) is going on, and because of this – I believe that there are going to be two groups of readers in this novel, the ones who really, really loved it – and the ones who were left wondering what the heck was going on. Or, those who are like me – somewhere in between.

The Quantum Thief itself is very hard-core sci-fi, and if you read little science fiction, you’ll be perhaps even more lost in this novel than I was. This is for fans, and those who enjoy the creations of Iain M. Banks, Peter F. Hamilton, Neal Asher, Charles Stross, Alistair Reynolds and company should find this novel as enjoyable as they found those.

Verdict: 4.5/5



Bane of Kings is one our most senior book reviewers here at The Founding Fields, based in England. He’s a prolific reviewer that has contributed to many things here and around the internet.


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