The Quantum Thief
The Quantum Thief is a sci-fi novel following the adventures of the gentleman thief Jean le Flambeur as he navigates a futuristic solar system to reclaim his lost memories and pull off an impossible heist.
Jean le Flambeur, an exceptional thief, is broken out of prison by a god-like, uploaded-intelligence to steal sometime highly valuable. But there is a problem: le Flambeur wiped his own mind and hid his memories before capture. To pull off the heist, he must get them back.
Le Flambeur and his handler go to Mars to recover his memories, where they quickly get entangled in local affairs. They end up starting a revolution to free the Oubliette—a walking city where all memories are encrypted and stored online, allowing precise control over what others can remember about you.
The world building is exceptional, with many new and exciting ideas,1 like:
- The walking city that must keep moving to avoid the machines trying to destroy it.
- The life cycle of the citizens who spend part of the time living normally and part of the time enslaved to maintain the city.
- Using time—the time your have before you are enslaved—as a currency for everything.
There are so many mysteries too. Who is le Flambeur and why was he imprisoned? What is his relation to the Martians? What is the unnamed treasure only he can steal? Why do Oubliette citizens accept their awful bargain of enslavement?
The problem is: I didn’t care. Shocking twist after shocking twist didn’t faze me because I didn’t connect with any of the characters. At several points I put down the book, realizing I had no desire to find out how it ended. I only finished it by forcing myself to read a few pages at a time.
In the end, a deep backdrop with shallow story on top.
There are also some overly cute ideas like “What if gaming clans became part of the government and still went on raids!” and “What if prison was an actual prisoner’s dilemma!” ↩