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WesternSFA
The Fractal Prince
by Hannu Rajaniemi
Tor; $15.99, 300pp
Release Date: January 21, 2014
Continuing the space opera adventure begun in The Quantum Thief, Rajaniemi’s dazzling narrative imbeds story within reflective story in the manner of The Thousand and One Nights and the separate actions of two very different protagonists begin to converge.

In a future where bioengineering and nanotechnology have reshaped entire star systems, and minds the size of planets can command volunteered bodies like toy soldiers and puppets, Jean le Flambeur, Gentleman-Burglar, is on a mission so devious he has to keep parts of it secret even from himself. But he’s also given his word of honor to help the star pilot Mieli complete her own quest, and again and again these two commitments come into conflict.

Meanwhile, on a planet where telling stories is a crime, Tawaddud, who loves monsters and stories, finds herself caught up in a web of politics and deceit, and her own sister may be the most dangerous player in the game.

This is a series like no other, by one of the most fantastic writers of hard SF. Rajaniemi, according to his bioblurb, is multilingual and has advanced degrees in both physics and mathematics, so there is genuinely speculative writing going on here, not mere hand-waving. Terrifying as this world is, it has coherence, and its dangers and splendours are extraordinary.

A fractal is an iterated design that recreates itself infinitely, down to the smallest levels as well as expansively. One of the best known is the Mandelbrot set, but there are an infinite number of others. I wonder whether the author had a particular fractal design in mind when he named this book, and if so, which one? ~~ Chris R. Paige

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