Book review

The Quantum Magician

by Derek K√ľnsken

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It took me maybe 30 pages to get into The Quantum Magician, but then it got it’s teeth into me, and I loved it. Great storytelling and plotting, brilliant future technologies and enhanced trans-human capabilities, all combined with very credible characters.

Several different new human “species” have been artificially created in the world of The Quantum Magician; our central character, Bel, is a Homo Quantus, capable of transforming part of his brain into a quantum computer. This makes him a subtle, complex, computational machine, capable of handling problems in dozens of dimensions. But while he’s in this state his human side – his soul, as it were – is shut down. If you read books going back as far as the Iliad, you see that human behaviours haven’t evolved for the last two and a half thousand years, regardless of our enhanced technologies, and so there’s no particular reason to expect us to do so in the next two thousand. This book’s main driver is this thesis – the characters, and their new trans-human abilities: how does this ability affect them – how does it affect Bel? You’ll meet several other such puzzle pieces, each with their strengths and weaknesses, some quite grotesque, but all (even the superficially evil) entirely credible.

Bel has left the planet that created him, and has turned his talents to studying that most complex of problems, the behaviours of other people. But he needs money to live and satisfy his expensive hobbies, so he combines all this and has become a galactic-class con man. He’s hired by a small vassal government to help them with a problem worthy of his talents: smuggle a dozen spaceships across one of the most tightly controlled borders in space. To do so he hires a gang of other misfits and experts in various shady arts, and together they set out to pull the con – and to try to make sure they each emerge with as much of the credit or loot as possible.

To say more would risk spoilers. And although this plotline is wrapped up by the end, there are ample opportunities to revisit this world and some of the players, and I look forward to further encounters very much.