I have no idea what I’m reading. The Causal Angel is Hannu Rajaniemi’s third (and possibly final) in the Jean le Flambeur series, starting with The Quantum Thief, and followed by The Fractal Prince, and it would probably benefit any intending reader to read those two in chronological order before embarking on this one to have the slightest chance of comprehending what’s going on.
If it was written in the ’60s or ’70s, it’d be all hard engineering, but this is hard sci-fi of the post-LHC era and it’s all string-theory, brane, quantum theory, uploaded bits and pieces hurling around the solar system in virtual realms running on fist-sized blocks of diamond and more esoteric materials. It’s heavily influenced by game and gamer culture also, though only occasionally pop-cultural. Another comparison is Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon, that is to say, The Causal Angel is contemporary theoretical physics to Ahmed’s contemporary Arabian fantasy.
It’s very good, though I think most people who don’t have a passing understanding of theoretical physics, game culture, and even more obtuse topics will see almost every page full of blllrrrblllrrrblllrrr and wondering what Rajamiemi is talking about. I didn’t read the first two before embarking on this one and have only the barest memory of them, so there was a lot of drowning in incomprehension. Nonetheless I think returning to read all three to experience them as a single work is a good later-this-year project. It isn’t going to beat Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice for fiction book of the year, but it’s highly improbable any book I plan to read before October will.