Science Fiction and Fantasy Recommendations, pt. 3: Hannu Rajaniemi

Hannu Rajaniemi

He’s a fairly new author, and he’s the only Finnish author that I can think of in science fiction right now. He’s best known for his trilogy that begins with Quantum Thief. It’s a little hard to explain the setting, but I’ll try my best. The setting is several centuries in the future, but there is no ‘impossible’ science here: no faster-than-light travel or communication, no teleportation, etc. Mankind is wholly confined to the solar system. There has been no travel to other stars, and no discovery or communication with intelligent life elsewhere. Humanity and our solar system is all we’ve got. What we do have though, is post-singularity, post-death, and even post-human. Hard AI, digital uploading (and downloading) are all present. The story begins with our protagonist Jean le Flambeur (a futuristic Arsene Lupin-styled gentlemen-thief character) in prison: he has been captured and uploaded into a virtual prison where billions of copies of himself are forced too play a deadly version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, and every time he’s killed the controlling AI just re-loads him and makes him do it again. He escapes (is rescued) and is hired for a job, a high-stakes robbery which could effect the existence of all sophonts in the solar system: digital and otherwise.

In the trilogy Rajaniemi dives deeply into these kind of futuristic post-singularity concepts and issues, and doesn’t do a lot of hand-holding for the reader, similar to Neil Stephenson. But at it’s core the novel is still an exciting caper story and I really enjoyed it.

If you want to read something by him that’s shorter to get a better feel for his style, I recommend the short story Unchained: A story of love, loss, and blockchain which is published online here. This story is not over the other side of the post-singularity clip, but instead feels all too plausible in the near future. But it still has his signature style of looking at the intersection of human emotions, lives, and technology.

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