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The Quantum Magician is an English language science fiction novel in the heist and caper subgenres, published October 2018 by Canadian author Derek Künsken.

The plot follows Belisarius Arjona, a talented con artist and Homo quantus, a future subspecies of human with unique capabilities of sensory perception relating to quantum mechanics, as well as a mind able to perform incredibly advanced calculations of mathematics and probability. He is hired to help a military organisation move advanced ships bearing classified technology through hostile regions of space, by distracting and deceiving the government of the hostile territory. His team includes other posthuman and transhuman species, as well as other confidence men and demolitions experts.

The nature of the classified tech is a very satisfying revelation which I will refrain from spoiling in this writeup, but it is also the cause of the inciting event for the squel, The Quantum Garden. It is far from the only plot twist the novel has to offer, due to the nature of heists and their abundant opportunities for double-cross and bribery.

The story's themes lightly explore human nature by showing fictional races which exaggerate specific aspects of human nature, as well as questioning if there are contexts in which various neurodivergences, such as ADHD and autism, have a natural advantage or might even be the most "sane" neurotype for that context, while neurotypical individuals might qualify as maladaptive for that context. Künsken is hardly the first author to attempt these themes, but I find his approach unusually respectful, offering a faithful representation of what these neurotypes feel like from the inside, empathetically, instead of objectifying them or treating them as a spectacle or a plaything. The plot also addresses the commodification of genius, talent, and invention, showing numerous unique dystopias, each of which treats its most effective and competitive members' merits as the assumptive property of a common interest, disregarding individual needs and wishes, while imprisoning or otherwise punishing those who have decided that their talents and morals are not for sale to the highest bidder.

The caper itself is marvelously intricate, and I recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed the film Ocean's Eleven or the novel The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi.

Iron Noder 2020, 24/30

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