I last showed this blog some love after the death of Osama bin Laden, and that’s a shame. More than once since then I sat down at my computer, only to write half of a thought and put it away for another day. But my usual topics seem to give me anger issues these days, so I thought I’d put something up here on things more personal and cheerful for me.
I recently became unemployed, and in my several weeks of downtime before I start a new gig at Rebuilding Together New Orleans, I’ve been reading a lot. This week alone I sped through Hannu Rajaniemi’s stellar debut, The Quantum Thief, and caught up on Fables and Hellboy, my two favorite ongoing comic books.
I loved every page of The Quantum Thief. Rajaniemi put out some serious Hugo material here. He essentially crafted a beautiful, post-Singularity Neuromancer - or at least the first third of one. In it, a warrior-girl and her loyal spaceship break master thief Jean le Flambeur out of prison to pull one last job for a mysterious benefactor. To that end, they travel to the Oubliette, the moving city of Mars. The Oubliette is a place obsessed with privacy and full of secrets.
The world(s) Rajaniemi created are beautiful and dangerous, from the Dilemma Prison that forces le Flambeur to play never-ending deadly games with copies of himself, to the Oubliette and its gevulot (basically a hyper-advanced Facebook for real life – where you can control everyone else’s ability to see or even remember meeting you). I have serious doubts that I could ever create anything half as imaginative as what this string theory and artificial intelligence expert has. Which makes a lot of sense.
My one complaint about The Quantum Thief was the ending. Jean takes the crew to the Oubliette to steal back his own memories, but at the end, we’re left with no idea why they needed them. Now, I realize this is intentional on Rajaniemi’s part, but it left me wanting so much more. Sometimes the novel is too cryptic for its own good, leaving you with more questions than answers – a bit like an episode of lost. I understand that this is to become a trilogy, so here’s hoping he puts the next volume out quick!
Before The Quantum Thief, I explored Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles with The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye. While I’ll spare you the full run-down on both of these amazing novels, I do want to write a bit about their protagonist, the private detective Philip Marlowe.
Philip Marlowe is exactly the man I wish I could be. Except maybe for his drinking problem. Though flawed personally and just snarky enough to beat on a number of times by unamused police officers, Marlowe embodies strong ideals of justice and morality. This man sticks to his principles without compromise, but can only do so because he’s extraordinarily clever and unnaturally lucky. He doesn’t have to compromise, because his craftiness sees him through the worst trouble. If one thing about these stories breaks the spell, it’s how incredibly lucky he gets (especially not getting the murder of his client from The Long Goodbye pinned on him).
In between novels, I read a few of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd & Gray Mouser short stories. A while back, I started a little world-building project for a fantasy novel idea I had. I actually found the early history of the world I created more interesting and came up with an adventuring duo in the vein of Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser. So I turned to Leiber’s original stories for some inspiration. My characters became quite unlike the two titular heroes physically, but their camaraderie remains quite similar. I started a short story, which quickly became something of a novella. I’m going to try to actually finish this one. I might even try out NaNoWriMo again this year with these two characters in mind.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. I’m sure I’ll be back with something on more depressing topic – war, politics, climate change, etc. – soon.