The Fractal Prince is a novel in desperate need of a glossary and, possibly, maps.
It took a lot of effort to get through The Fractal Prince because the author, Hannu Rajaniemi, gives the reader nothing. I appreciate his assumption that the reader is a smart person with strong deductive abilities; however, a lot of his concepts aren’t identifiable by context clues alone.
Take, for example, “battle autism.” I can extrapolate Rajaniemi’s meaning because I know what autism is. I suppose battle autism is a mental state in which the warrior in question is intently and singularly focused on the battle at hand.
Then, there’s the zoku, which I think is similar to the Sobernost in that they’re both post-human collectives of uploaded minds, but with different value systems. The Sobernost wants to upload and assimilate all human consciences as gogols for processing – basically turning all of humanity into copiable apps. The Sobernost has sold this idea to humanity as immortality and, for the most part, humanity bought it. I’m not sure of the zoku’s endgame, if they even have one.
That’s what it’s like to read The Fractal Prince. As far as I can tell, reading the first installment, The Quantum Thief, wouldn’t have been much help in sorting in out.
As far as what it’s about…..well…..there’s two storylines: one is an AI heist, the other is a coup in Sirr, the last human city on Earth. Neither is particularly straightforward, each one layered in other stories and histories. Of the two, the Earth storyline is the most interesting, partly because those characters aren’t uploaded and have real stakes. They can still really die.
But, it’s so damn compelling and the concepts don’t stop coming. Even though there was so much to tangle through, The Fractal Prince demanded my attention. And, days after finishing it, my mind keeps going back to it.
After a string of light (and frequently disappointing) reads, I enjoyed the challenge of The Fractal Prince.
I would’ve enjoyed it more with a glossary, though.
Review copy provided by Tor.