The first book in the SF trilogy.
Publication year: 2010
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2012
Page count: 440
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Gummerus
Finnish translator: Antti Autio
Jean de Flambeur is a master thief and a con man. However, something went wrong and now he’s in jail. He’s in a dilemma jail where he and his fellow inmates are forced to play games with their lives over and over again. It messes with their memories and tries to train them to become obedient citizens. Luckily, Mieli is there to break him out. However, Mieli and her unknown master want something from Jean in return.
Mieli has never met Jean and already hates him, but she’s been ordered to break him out and so she’s spent significant time to get herself into that jail and search for him there. She’s an Oortian soldier and has a sentient starship, Perhonen. She needs something from Jean’s past but it’s something he has forgotten so he needs to return to his past. Literally. They go to Mars and to the moving city of Oubliette. There, Jean will have to confront his past and the person he used to be – or try to escape. However, escape is hard because Jean’s body has been constructed by Perhonen and Mieli has complete control over it.
Mieli dislikes this mission but she has no choice but to complete it. She’s determined to keep the thief on a short leash and get what she needs. She longs to return home, to the customs she grow up with instead of dealing with foreigners all the time. Luckily, her ship is a great comfort to her and a close friend, too.
In Oubliette, a young man is gaining fame as a detective. It’s actually very unusual occupation, or hobby, in the advanced society but Isidor Beautrelet enjoys it thoroughly and has the support of the local law enforcers, the tzaddiks. Also, he’s in trouble with his girlfriend who’s from another society, the zokus who spend their whole life playing various games.
This was quite a ride! The book is set in technologically very advanced societies where minds are saved on computer memory and bodies are built. And it’s not explained. You just have to pick them all up as you go along.
The book has three POVs: Jean, Mieli, and Isidore. Jean’s part is in 1st person and the others 3rd.
Oubliette is a city focused on the mind; people are able to share memories but only when all concerned allow it. The city has an external memory (exomemory) which everyone can access and it records everything happening in public places. People have private memories which they can share with others, or not. Death is also not permanent when people can be downloaded to other bodies. Oubliette’s society is constructed around time: people have a limited amount of time which they can spend in human bodies (called nobles). When someone’s time is up, he or she “dies” for a short time and is transferred to another body, which is designed for some sort of work: construction, guarding, serving etc. They are called the Quiet because they often can’t talk in those bodies. And the city’s police force wears masks, fly, do amazing things with technology, and have secret identities. One of them is called the Gentleman another the Futurist, for example.
The book has a lot of fascinating concepts and at times they overshadow the characters. Also, even though humans have learned to upload their consciousness to memory and they download it to created/cloned/built bodies (some of them aren’t humans, but tools), the way they interact with each other haven’t changed. They still talk about the ugly/pretty divide, play games, are sexually jealous etc. Also, how can children look like their parents or siblings look like each other when they’re all in constructed bodies? They can look like anything, right? The world building is fascinating but it doesn’t seem to impact the people much, especially considering that everyone seems to be pretty much immortal.
Still, an enjoyable read, if somewhat confusing at first. It seems that the next books aren’t set in Mars so I’m looking forward to what other worlds are like.