Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Quantum Thief and Chris Foss @ SFFWorld

Another week rolls through and another couple of reviews at SFFWorld, one each from Mark and me. We’ll start with my review of one of the more talked-about SF debuts over the past couple of years The Quantum Theif by Hannu Rajaniemi:

The novel opens as our protagonist, Jean le Flambeur con artist and theif, is in the midst of a prison sentence in the Dilemma Prison at the outer reaches of the solar system. Since we likely wouldn’t have a book to read had he not been broken out of prison, that’s just what happens though le Flambeur isn’t set free to do as he wills. His rescuer, a warrior by the name of Miele, indicates he must use his skills as a thief in a mission for her employer. However, since Jean has changed bodies and personalities so many times over the course of his career, he must secure those past memories from the Martian Oubliette where Time is a currency, before fully completing the task Miele sets before him.

The basic framework to the novel seems a rather straight-forward mixture of espionage, thriller, heist, and adventure. That said, the meat attached to those bones is spectacularly science-fictional WOW. Rajaniemi is a mathematician and reading through the novel, I got the sense that Rajaniemi tried to put as much of that science into the story as possible. Thankfully, those SF-nal details are mostly expounded in a readable and interesting manner; and give a new perspective on which to view life, our galaxy and where humanity can go in the future as it achieves that much-fictionalized goal of post-humanity. Some of those SF ideas include an intelligent ship, a virtual prison, life on Mars, telepathy, shared and public memory, and Time as a currency.

Mark reviewed Hardware: The Definitive SF Works of Chris Foss by Rian Hughes, which is one of those occasional oversized art books, this one (obviously) focuses on British artist Chris Foss:
Awesomely sized and detailed spaceships and buildings with people reduced to the size of mere dots, brightly painted in lines and stripes and with backgrounds not just of black, blue and grey, but vibrant greens, yellows and reds, Chris’s work is a triumphant sign of technology. It’s not by accident that this book is called Hardware.

As well as the pictures, there are some details included to fill out the artist’s CV. The Introduction, by Rian Hughes, sums up much of what is great about Chris’s paintings. Then there is an interview with Chris by his daughter Imogene, which gives us a career summary and points to future work from Chris: he’s still working. There are also two Forewords – one by artist Moebius, writing about the artistic influence Chris has had on today’s artists, and one by Alejandro Jodorowsky, updating the Introduction he first wrote in 21st Century Foss.

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