Wiki/Glossary for The Quantum Thief / The Fractal Prince / Jean le Flambeur

A spoiler-free Wiki/Glossary. I recommend using Ctrl+F to find since not every term has a separate entry. Some terms are explained in the body of other terms. Leave a comment if you have a suggestion! And while you’re at it, you could try my Science Fiction page.



Agoras, similar to their Greek namesake, are public places in the Oubliette where gevulot is overridden. Thus, anyone who is in an agora can be seen by everyone in the vicinity, even by persons outside of the agora. This makes agoras popular places to meet people.

Beanstalk station

Visitors to the Oubliette pass through the beanstalk station or spaceport. They arrive by means of the beanstalk, which appears to be a space elevator.

Dilemma Prison

Dilemma Prisons are built and maintained by Archons, who are the creation of the Engineer-of-Souls. Prisoners there are condemned to play a perpetual game of iterated prisoner’s dilemma, in which defection is shooting the occupier of an adjacent cell. Prisons are seeded with copies of the prisoners’ gogols, as well as other gogols, such as warminds, and the composition of the prison population evolves, depending on the results of each round of prisoner’s dilemma, according to rules similar to Conway’s Game of Life. To spice things up, prisoners may be presented with more elaborate scenarios of defection and cooperation, besides the above-mentioned default scenario.

Moving Cities

Mars has been settled but all settlements are on mobile platforms in order to escape the ravage of the phoboi plague.


The Oubliette is a Moving City of Mars and the location where most of the action in the novel takes place. The Oubliette society is characterized by the use of exomemory, gevulot, and Time as a currency. Visitors to the Oubliette are given a temporary gevulot shell to access exomemory and gevulot, and a temporary Watch to keep Time.


The sole post-Collapse human city on Earth.

Zoku colony

The zoku colony is in the Dust District, which is on the outskirts of the Oubliette. It resembles a dome. The Sino-Japanese word zoku means tribe, clan, or family.



Sobornost creations that create Dilemma Prisons to imprison prisoners of the Sobornost.


The Sirr name for Spimespace.


Beings that existed as stories in human consciousness until Matjek Chen freed them.

Biot feed

A biot feed is a telepathic system that feeds the biological sensory information that one person generates to another. This information is usually experienced in the form of a muffled background sensation by the latter.

Combat autism

A method Mieli uses in fighting, possibly a computer program running in her brain. The combat autism enhances certain brain functions by suppressing other brain functions to focus Mieli’s mental abilities on the fight.


Created by the Sobornost to improve on the human mind. They have no consciousness, no self loop. The experiment failed and the Sobornost were forced to contain the Dragons in sandboxes (virs). It is not clear that anything can stop them.


The exomemory in the Oubliette is the public memory of the Oubliette. Anyone in the Oubliette can look up the exomemory to obtain information by ‘blinking: note the apostrophe in front of “b”, which denotes the Oubliette-specific action of blinking to access information from the exomemory. Possibly derived from “web link”, along the same lines whereby “web log” became blog.


In pre-Collapse Earth, a vir used to store a gogol of a mind as a insurance.


Gevulot (Hebrew for “borders”) is a privacy protocol used in the Oubliette. It is a system that allows people in the Oubliette, both citizens and visitors alike, to set the desired level of privacy in every social encounter, to share memories and to access the exomemory. People can obscure themselves from being
seen by others if they are hidden behind a gevulot “fog”. However, this effect is only apparent, as analog recording devices, like cameras, can still capture images of people behind gevulot. Gevulot is physically implemented using a wearable shell, which visitors to the Oubliette are given upon entry.

Ghost gun

Fires gogols that attempt to hack into the target.


Apart from the Oubliette, most humans have undergone mind uploads and can easily have their minds transferred between bodies, while artificial intelligence has advanced to a point where artificial minds are almost indistinguishable from uploaded ones. Gogols (likely in reference to the Nikolai Gogol novel, Dead Souls are used to refer to these sentient entities, which may be likened to souls or minds. They are also similar to software, as gogols can be cloned and transferred between bodies. A character offers the Oubliette-centric view that the concept of a gogol as “a dead soul, the uploaded mind of a human being, enslaved to carry out tasks, [is] anathema to anyone from the Oubliette.”

Kaminari Jewel

The Kaminari jewel is a lost artifact capable of great by mysterious power.


Q-objects are objects made out of q-dots, an ubiquitous and versatile material. The q-dots can function as weapons, sensors, building materials, fabrics, etc.


Gogols can qupt each other using the quptlink. The quptlink functions like a telepathic messaging network and appears to be mediated by neutrinos. Almost everyone can qupt, but in the Oubliette, gevulot is preferred.


Tiny diamond shards used in battle by Founder copyclans.


A spimescape is a virtual reality environment. A spimescape is populated by objects called spimes. The name may be a reference to the notion, proposed by Bruce Sterling, of a spime, an object that can be tracked in space and time throughout the lifetime of the object. Blink describes moving from physical reality to spimespace.


The currency of the Oubliette is Time, which is used to pay for goods and services, as well as the privilege to have children. The currency is stored in a Watch and appears to be made of a material that can encode quantum states. The amount of Time citizens have in their Watches determines how long they have before they enter the Quiet.

Visitors have to purchase a temporary citizenship and Watch upon arrival, but when their Time is used up, they do not enter the Quiet. Instead, they are put into a state of suspended animation and reanimated only after their deportation from the Oubliette.

The Quiet

The Quiet is the state in which all citizens of the Oubliette must eventually enter at some point. When citizens enter the Quiet, their gogols are assigned by the city computer to the Quiets, machines that help run the Oubliette, while their bodies are collected by the Resurrection Men and kept in storage for their return from the Quiet. Early entry into the Quiet can be voluntarily chosen or imposed as a sanction by the courts.


In the Oubliette, every person, citizen or visitor, has a Watch, which keeps the Time that the person still has. The Watch also contains a private encryption key that is required to ‘blink exomemory and use gevulot.


Wildcode is mindless unbound tech that roams the post-Collapse Earth attacking anything it encounters. The people of Sirr are protected against wildcode by Seals.

Utility fog

A utility fog (originally proposed by J. Storrs Hall) is a hypothetical dispersed collection of tiny self-reconfiguring modular robots that can replicate a physical structure.


Gogol pirates

Gogol pirates extract gogols from people without prior consent. Gogol pirates have many ways to steal a gogol, the simplest being an optogenetic method, but the gevulot in the Oubliette presents a barrier to such crude methods. Gogol pirates are servants of the Sobornost, and upload their stolen gogols into the collective.


A disembodied gogol, for example distributed among multiple bodies. Jinn attempt embodiment. Those jinn that steal human bodies to do so are called body thieves. Axolotl or Zaybak was the first body thief. The stolen body is called a ghul.


They capture gogols in the wildcode desert to sell. To do this, they are entwined (or linked) with a jinni (gogol) from childhood allowing them to see and hunt gogols in Jannahs in the wildcode desert. The entwined jinn is called Qarim.


The Oubliette is the only baseline human nation left in the solar system. The citizens of the Oubliette were originally slaves whose minds were used as the control processes in machines for terraforming Mars. They rebelled against their enslavers and founded a new state based on the freedom and privacy of individual minds. The Oubliette is governed by the Voice, a composite of the unconscious beliefs of all Oubliette citizens.


The phoboi are dangerous self-replicating machines left over from the Martian civil war; they infest the surface of Mars and make it necessary for cities like the Oubliette to keep moving to avoid being overrun by them.


The Sobornost (etymology) are a posthuman upload collective. They use guberniyas, which are planet-sized spheres full of computronium that can move through the Solar System. Their main guberniya appears to be in Venus, but they appear to have control over many parts of the solar system. Gogols of the Sobornost place great importance on a common mission, the Great Common Task, which appears to be the uploading of all sentient minds in the solar system. (This may be based on the “Common Task” in the writings of Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov, who is referenced several times in the novel: the resurrection of the dead through science.) It is implied that the Sobornost is controlled by the Founders, the original creators of the collective who have made millions of copies of themselves, giving them access to the combined computational abilities of their many copies. The combined copies of the founders are called copyclans. Individuals other than the founders uploaded into the Sobornost become slaves to the copyclans, and are used to maintain the computational processes of the Sobornost. The earlier copies, or generations, of the Founders command xiao, or respect, from gogols. There founders are: Matjek Chen, Josephine Pelligrini, Sumanguru, Vasilev, Hsien-ku, and the Engineer of Souls (Chitragupta). The Sobornost technology uses to extract materials from the Sun is called a sunlifter.


The Tzaddikim (from Hebrew Tzadik, “righteous one”) are anonymous crime-fighters and investigators in the Oubliette, sometimes described as vigilantes and sometimes as police.


The zoku are a faction of posthuman warriors. As with the Sobornost, each member of the zoku is a composite of many minds. However, it is implied that the minds that make up the different members of the zoku have more equality compared to the Sobornost. The zoku are descended from members of MMORPG guilds, and their culture reflects these origins. They are warriors and mercenaries, and are primarily motivated by the desire to find new challenges and improve themselves through conflict. They dismiss people who believe in actual causes and movements as “meme zombies.” The zoku fought a war against the Sobornost called the protocol war, which they lost. Some of them originally lived on Jupiter, but after losing the war they sought asylum on the Oubliette on Mars in order to recover.



They are control the Sobornost by virtue of being the founders, as their name implies. Each Founder has created innumerable copies, called gogols, to enhance the Founder’s computational abilities. The original copy of the Founder is called the Prime. The combined copies of the Founders are called copyclans.

Joséphine Pellegrini

A Founder of the Sobornost, taking the form of a middle aged woman. She assists Jean le Flambeur in escaping from the Dilemma Prison, so that he can steal a Schrodinger’s Box for her. When Jean le Flambeur and Mieli flee with the Box, she uses the Hunter to find them.

Matjek Chen

A Sobornost founder and creator of the Dragons. A gogol of Matjek was created when he was a child.


Hails from Oort, she works under the employ of Josephine Pelligrini and possesses a very powerful Sobornost body. She owns the ship Perhonen, and accompanies Jean le Flambeur.



A cataclysm that befell Earth where Earth’s economy collapsed and the zoku and the gogols fled the planet. It’s cause is unknown and is the source of speculation.

Cry of Wrath

The Sobornost tried uploading all consciousness on Earth but were thwarted by the wildcode desert. The Cry of Wrath Accords require the Sobornost to acquire gogols through the Mutalibun.

Fedorovism Movement

A movement on pre-Collapse Earth to liberate enslaved upload minds.

Protocol War

A war between the zoku and the Sobornost, which the zoku lost. The zoku colony at Jupiter was destroyed and the zoku sought refuge on Mars.

The Spike

A Singularity-level event that destroyed Jupiter.

8 thoughts on “Wiki/Glossary for The Quantum Thief / The Fractal Prince / Jean le Flambeur

  1. Pingback: Jean le Flambeur Series, The Quantum Thief Book 1 Reviewed | Joe's Geek Fest

  2. Tracy Johnson on

    Thanks — as one reads the story, most of these concepts are learned in an organic sort of way; but it’s nice to see a definition in black and white. I would like to see a para on the titular (ooh, I got to use that word) character Jean Le Flambeau, and the Gentleman/Raymonde, and Paul, and Pixil.

    • The titular character! Our protagonist. As I understand, Flambeur is modeled on the idea of a ‘gentleman-thief’. I’d have to re-read the books to do justice to any descriptions I write. But! I just ordered the third book (late I know) so maybe I can rustle up something eh?

  3. oparisy on

    Nice, spoiler-free listing… Excepted for Joséphine Pellegrini’s description which reveals significant plot details!

    • Karan on

      That was copied from the Wiki page. Those are the barest outlines so perhaps it’s not too bad? It could be useful for someone who’s trying to place the character in context. Hm.

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      • Lily on

        This is so helpful! Thanks. I agree with another commenter about how spoiler free this is (other than the Pellegrini entry, which you might consider editing :-).

        • Karan on

          Woohoo :) For the Pellegrini entry, would it work to keep the first sentence and remove the following sentences? Alternate suggestions are welcome. Aside, I wish this page has Wiki-like abilities so that anyone could edit it.

  7. Pingback: So, you’ve decided to read Quantum Thief: a spoiler-free introduction | The Thirteenth Shelf

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