The Quantum Thief

by Hannu Rajaniemi

Rating: ★★★

The Quantum Thief is a somewhat mind-bending futuristic adventure mystery. In a world of super-smart artificial intelligences and cryptographically-ensured privacy, a famous criminal is sprung from an inescapable jail so that he can help locate something of immense value to a mysterious power.

The novel proceeds much like any crime fiction or treasure hunt, with the key characters quickly ending up on the cryptographically-secured planet of Mars, where everything is recorded by omnipresent surveillance, but negotiated contracts using a paired-key cryptosystem prevent these recordings from being passed on according to varying degrees of privacy.

This society is the real centrepiece of the story, and as the various characters poke around the layered mystery they essentially showcase aspects of the Martin system's implementation, eventually culminating in a revelation of the critical compromise of the system. At the same time, other moral quandaries linked to the advance of technology are given some space on the page.

Entertaining enough though it may be, The Quantum Thief feels almost too magic-rich to relate to or become particularly engrossed in. Technological marvels appear with regularity, with some characters seeming almost godlike in capacity, and this discourages you from attempting to think ahead very much. Many science-fiction readers might find this enjoyable, but it failed to grab my interest.