Aug 3, 2011

Covering Covers: The Fractal Prince - Hannu Rajaniemi

Cover Artist: Kekai Kotaki

"Jean le Flambeur, posthuman thief, is out of prison, but still not free. To pay his debts to Oortian warrior Mieli and her mysterious patron the pellegrini, he has to break into the mind of a living god. Planning the ultimate heist takes Jean and Mieli from the haunted city of Sirr on broken Earth to the many-layered virtual realms of the mighty Sobornost. But when the stakes of the pellegrini’s game are revealed, Jean has to decide how far he is willing to go to get the job done."
Kekai Kotaki is quickly becoming one of my favorite cover artists. Between The Quantum Thief, The Unremembered, and this gem his work is colorful without being cartoony, evoking a sense of action and adventure without resorting to spaceships or dragons. And anyone who has read the The Quantum Thief knows that's exactly how Rajaniemi operates. He's doesn't slow down, he doesn't explain, and he's not going to apologize.

Rajaniemi's style is difficult to explain. You read it and you like it, but you're not exactly sure what you read or why you like it. At least, not after the first time through. It's complex, peculiar, captivating, and just plain good.

Don't believe me? Have a sample from The Fractal Prince.

Drathdor the zoku elder liked to talk, and it wasn't that hard to get
him to explain what a Box was (without letting on that I had stolen
one from their zoku twenty years ago, of course).

Imagine a box, he said. Now put a cat in it. Along with a death
machine: a bottle of poison, cyanide, say, connected to a mechanism
with a hammer and a single atom of a radioactive element. In the
next hour, the atom either decays or not, either triggering or not
triggering the hammer. So, in the next hour, the cat is either alive
or dead.

Quantum mechanics claims that there is no definite cat in the box,
only a ghost, a superposition of a live cat and a dead cat. That is,
until we open it and look. A measurement will collapse the system into
one state or the other. So goes Schrödinger's thought experiment.

It is completely wrong, of course. A cat is a macroscopic system,
and there is no mysterious intervention by a magical observer
needed to make it live or die: just its interaction with the rest
of the Universe, a phenomenon called decoherence, provides the
collapse into one macrostate. But in the microscopic world --- for
qubits, quantum-mechanical equivalents of ones and zeroes --- the
Schrödinger's cat is real.

The Box contains trillions of ghost cats. The live cat states
encode information. A mind, even, a living, thinking mind. The Box
qubits have been rotated into a limbo state between nothingness and
existence. The mind inside would not notice anything--- a set of
quantum gates can let it continue thinking, feeling, dreaming. If it
stays inside, all is well. But if it tries to get out, any interaction
with the environment will bring the Universe down on it like a ton of
 bricks and collapse it into nothingness. Bad kitty, dead kitty.

"So what do you put in a Box like that?'' I asked Drathdor.

"Something very, very dangerous,'' he said.

Elegantly perplexing, no?

The Fractal Prince, the 2nd entry in The Quantum Thief trilogy, will be published on September 4, 2012 by Tor.


  1. Pre-ordered this on Amazon when I came across your site via Google. Hannu Rajaniemi is like an intricate and delicate work of art.

  2. I loved the quantum thief but found it disappointingly short. His style begs for an epic approach Peter F Hamilton style think of the possibilities! To get a greater understanding of his future vision of sol system is a must for me! Can't wait for the next book! :)


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