I really should review books in a more timely fashion. That way, I can be sure to know what I’m actually talking about. But here we go nonetheless.
Okay, so this book follows Jean Le Flambeur, the greatest thief in known space. Well, he was at one time anyways. At the top of the story, he’s in a jail where he has to play prisoner dilemma games for the endless gratification of his captors. But, he is busted out by Mieli and her boss because Mieli’s boss needs Jean to steal something for her. The only problem with that is that Jean has lost his memory, so he is literally not the man he used to be. But they go to Mars in hopes that he will be able to steal back his skills to pay back his debt.
And the story is fascinatingly good. In a universe that would be easy to see as ridiculous or campy, the story rarely veers into those terms. Rajaniemi presents an environment where the worlds outside of earth have been settled, but they have become incredibly fractured. There’s a group that wants to incorporate everybody into their collective subconsciousness. There’s a technology-driven coven that evolved out of 21st century online gaming guilds. And the society of Mars itself is ruled by a complicated set of social standards that allow you to be as private as you want, to the point of people not being able to see you without your permission. All of this, and the floating cities, talking spaceships, mind-stealing aliens, and warped sense of reincarnation and immortality, make this backdrop truly memorable.
I’ve avoided giving all of those things their real names because I listened to the audiobook. And an audiobook does nothing good for your sf spelling. I imagine if reading, there would be sections where the technical jargon becomes a little too thick on the ground as Rajaniemi attempts to verify that the complex things taking place in the story could really happen. And while this might be fascinating to some, I have just enough self-taught physics to follow the general line and not get too worried about details.
But where this story truly shines is in the character relationships (isn’t that true for every great story?). Jean is deeply flawed: charming, but a bad guy. But with a sense of honor. But with a sense of self-preservation and isolation. But who acknowledges his debts. But who also wants to escape his captors and his past. So while he isn’t an unreliable narrator in the Something More Than Night sense, he is a bit too charming for his own good. Despite this, and despite the strange circumstances that he comes to know his new team, they start to form a cohesive unit that gives a lot of lip service to disliking each other while actively looking out for each other. You know, the way that family does.
Oh, and this space opera has murders and fights and zombies and robot battles and sexy times and a thrilling climax. But guys, character relationships too.
I’m already listening to the sequel.
JMF Rating: 8.5/10
‘Til next time,