Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction

Hannu_largeIt’s hard to even begin to express how much of a Hannu Rajaniemi fan I am. I have reviewed his books before (here and here in English, and here and here in Bulgarian), journeying through them has always been electrifying. His fiction is a vortex where the science and strangeness of the future meet, exploding in ferris wheel fireworks of bold ideas, narrative complexity and damned good writing. It’s the kind of prose that could go into textbooks on why and how SF is the awesome thing it is (alas, no such textbooks that I know of).

Seriously. Hannu Rajaniemi is one of the few writers who balance a sound scientific background with a vivid writerly talent, expertly enough to hammer out a vision of the future that is truly alien, and yet so very relatable. It is one of the crowning feats of good SF – to make the seemingly impossible behave as though it is reasonable and, ultimately, quite plausible. The miracles of fantasy and SF lure readers with their desirability, even when they are terrifying. The gap between how much we want those miracles and how impossible it is to have them is by now something we as readers are comfortable with (should we really be?). But Rajaniemi’s fiction imbues the genre with a brand new strain of cognitive dissonance: yes, you can have those miracles! Maybe not literally, but you can certainly understand them rationally, you only need to pay attention. Often enough, you don’t even need to have read academic papers in the relevant subjects! Continue reading

The Fractal Prince – Hannu Rajaniemi

Step into the Palace of Stories, taste their body of fractals…

I gobbled The Fractal Prince up in just a few days, hungry to devour as many pages as possible during my daily commute between tube stations. Or maybe trying to slow down and savor them, sorry to see the book come to an end. Anything inducing such paradoxical states of mind must be more than just good. The follow-up to The Quantum Thief is full of such curiosities. It is pretty short as novels go and yet it feels vast, infinite even. The story is involved to the point of obfuscation, but each day I would sink effortlessly into its winding ways and half an hour later would pop out of the underground, one or more self-contained stories sparkling like exotic jewels in my mind. It is a labyrinth and a room full of mirrors where you can easily lose yourself (occasionally even your self) and where subliminal glimpses of massive creatures moving hidden underneath the surface will startle you, grand colorful illusions will dazzle, memes will burrow and most of what you know will be revealed as nothing more than shifting sands. Continue reading

The Quantum Thief – Hannu Rajaniemi

After the release of The Quantum Thief in 2010 I wrote a gushing, ten-out-of-ten review. Its sequel – The Fractal Prince – is already on the market and I hope to subject it to blogoscopy soon. As a segue into that I decided to reread/rereview the first book, Rajaniemi’s devilishly good debut.

I have to admit my first review was a bit too ecstatic. The book is a real gem, it’s certainly among the best SF works I have read in the last years. But it isn’t a ten-out-of-ten and it’s not without shortcomings. That said, the book left me almost as hooked and craving for more as it did the first time. Continue reading

Tainaron: Mail from Another City – Lena Krohn

What a marvelous book Lena Krohn’s tiny Tainaron is! I admit that I chose it for my train read precisely because of its size. It’s merely 130 pages long, many of them filled with illustrations and the blank spaces that follow the end of chapters, in this case letters. Tainaron consists of thirty letters sent by a woman to her unnamed once-lover, over the huge mass of Oceanus, from the eponymous insect-inhabited city where she has emigrated for an unknown reason. It is not a novel, nor is it really a novella. There is no overarching plot; in fact, most of the novelistic mechanics that is part of our conditioning cannot be found in it. The psychological core of that very Western literary form, rooted in the socio-economic interaction between character and society, is simply not much of a concern for Lena Krohn. We never get to learn why the anonymous author of the letters came to Tainaron, how she makes her living, whether she has a job at all.

Instead, Tainaron is a confession of sorts, albeit an oblique one. It is also a series of metaphysical musings on the nature of life, death, identity. Continue reading