Review: The Fractal Prince / Author: Hannu Rajaniemi / Publisher: Gollancz / Release Date: Out Now
Hard science and science fiction have always had a little bit of an odd relationship. Sci-fi would not exist without people taking scientific theories and crafting them into an interesting narrative, but on the other hand, works of fiction that require at least a Bsc in Astrophysics to make sense will only ever appeal to a limited audience.
Hannu Rajaniemi first made his debut with the Quantum Thief, which was acclaimed for its solid plot, roguish characters and dedication to hard science fiction. The problem with the sequel, The Fractal Prince, is that Rajaniemi has turned up the volume on the complex explanations and overly flowery descriptions, making the entire work virtually impenetrable. Though one could argue that the point of the book is to create a complex, gossamer like structure that elevates the reader, it doesn’t go far enough to achieve this; too much work is required by the reader making this book a chore rather than a joy.
A sign of a bad genre novel is when the work is so entrenched in its own nonsense that it prevents the reader from understanding what is going on. Though Rajaneimi’s work is based on complex real world ideas, the way they are handled means that these things may as well be rubbish. This is a real shame, as the premise of the book; two stories that intertwine to produce a Schrodinger’s cat style conundrum, is a staggeringly interesting one. Rajaneimi is the master of the high concept story, but this does not save the novel from being a big mess of hard to understand cosmic spaghetti.
If you like very hard science fiction and consider movies like The Fountain to be childlike in their simplicity, then this is for you. The rest of us, however, will struggle.