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The Fractal Prince
Hannu Rajaniemi
Gollancz/Tor, 300/320 pages

The Fractal Prince
Hannu Rajaniemi
Hannu Rajaniemi is from Finland and has a PhD in String Theory. He has lived, taught and worked in Edinburgh for the last seven years where he was a member of the high profile writing group that also included Hal Duncan and Alan Campbell.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Quantum Thief

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

The Fractal Prince In the Oort Cloud, post-human societies sculpt ice into massive art forms, while on Earth uncontrolled nanotech and wild viruses twist and shape the desert and anyone who dares venture there. A thief and an angel contemplate the consequences of completing their mission, and two sisters play a game of family politics with the fate of the last humans on Earth at stake. That's just the start of the world and the stories created in Hannu Rajaniemi's The Fractal Prince, the sequel to last year's The Quantum Thief. There are also virtual worlds and quantum realities where hidden memories, and traps, lie in waiting. And, most of all, there are stories.

The thief, of course, is Jean de Flambeur, whose pursuit of his own memories led to a strange future Mars in The Quantum Thief. This time, de Flambeur is back in pursuit of his original goal, and that pursuit will take him to the last human dwelling on Earth, and the desert that surrounds it.

That's one of The Fractal Prince's stories. Others are concerned with Tawaddud and her sister Duny, and their family's struggle with politics on Earth and in the Solar System, where competing factions threaten war. It's when the two main story arcs intersect that The Fractal Prince explodes, a cataclysm of mysterious action and wild imagery. The author's doctorate is in string theory and quantum weirdness, and he lets it all out in prose that combines the poetics of Cordwainer Smith with the stylings of William Burroughs, as filtered through William Gibson.

The stories themselves are often modeled on those in The Arabian Nights. Earth's wild nanotech and virulent software comes in the form of demons and djinn, and, in a brilliant touch, viral software has gained the ability to enter and change the human brain. How? By becoming a story.

The Fractal Prince is a fantastic ride through a world whose mores, conventions, and inhabitants have been shaped through technology that can alter, bend, and twist reality and human memory. The novel rides the edge where hard science fiction meets the avant-garde, with a grand sense of style and adventure. With all that going on, the book's greatest achievement may be that the main characters, no matter what body or form they happen to be inhabiting, are at their emotional core still human, full of hopes and fears, with stories of their own to tell.

Copyright © 2013 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson wonders if the average person on the street has any idea of just how weird a future some of us are contemplating. Greg's reviews have appeared in publications ranging from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune to the The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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