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Ninefox Gambit (Machineries of Empire) Paperback – June 14, 2016
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“Beautiful, brutal and full of the kind of off-hand inventiveness that the best SF trades in, Ninefox Gambit is an effortlessly accomplished SF novel. Yoon Ha Lee has arrived in spectacular fashion.” (Alastair Reynolds)
"A dizzying composite of military space opera andsheer poetry. Every word, name and concept in Lee's unique world is imbued witha sense of wonder." (Hannu Rajaniemi)
“I love Yoon's work! Ninefox Gambit is solidly and satisfyingly full of battles and political intrigue, in a beautifully built far-future that manages to be human and alien at the same time. It should be a treat for readers already familiar with Yoon's excellent short fiction, and an extra treat for readers finding Yoon's work for the first time.” (Ann Leckie)
“StarshipTroopers meets Apocalypse Now – and they’ve put Kurtz in charge...Mind-blistering military space opera, but with a density of ideas andstrangeness that recalls the works of Hannu Rajaniemi, even Cordwainer Smith.An unmissable debut.” (Stephen Baxter)
"Astriking space opera by a bright new talent." (Elizabeth Bear)
“Forsixteen years Yoon Ha Lee has been the shadow general of science fiction, thecalculating tactician behind victory after victory. Now he launches his greatmanoeuvre. Origami elegant, fox-sly, defiantly and ferociously new,this book will burn your brain. Axiomatically brilliant. Heretically good.” (Seth Dickinson)
"Ahigh-octane ride through an endlessly inventive world, where calendars areweapons of war and dead soldiers can assist the living. Bold, fearlesslyinnovative and just a bit brutal, this is a book that deserves to be on everyawards list." (Aliette de Bodard)
“Daring,original and compulsive. As if Cordwainer Smith had written a Warhammer novel.” (Gareth L. Powell)
A tight-woven, complicated but not convoluted, breathtakingly original space opera. (New York Times)
About the Author
Yoon Ha Lee is a writer and mathematician from Houston, Texas, whose work has appeared in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed and The Magazine Of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He has published over forty short stories, and his critically acclaimed collection Conservation of Shadows was released in 2013. He lives in Louisiana with his family and an extremely lazy cat, and has not yet been eaten by gators.
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Setting the mathematics/technology to one side, the plotting is strong. There is ample action (with a high body count) and a generous helping of intrigue. Of the book's two central characters, I found Jedao far the more fascinating. Cheris was the kind of point-of-view character that I know I am expected to like by default, but in this case I didn't. (I didn't *dislike* her, but that's a lukewarm recommendation.) Perhaps I needed a moment near the beginning where Cheris actively did something to win my sympathy. I had a similar difficulty when I began Scott Lynch's debut fantasy novel, "The Lies of Locke Lamora." I knew that I was meant to like Locke Lamore, but it took me until page 145 to do so, though I enjoyed the flamboyance of Lynch's style from the start. In the case of "Ninefox Gambit," I reached the end of the book without much warming to Cheris.
For me the book's strengths were Jedao, the servitors (an appealing and interesting version of mobile robots), and several excellent scenes. For example, without disclosing what happened, and despite my lack of belief in the accompanying technobabble, I found the end of chapter 18 brilliant: lyrical, moving, memorable.
But the weird weapons are mostly chrome--thought experiments from the writer's toy box, which isn't to say they aren't entertaining since all the deaths and mutilations they cause don't seem particularly real. The affecting deaths generally involve ordinary weapons.
Similarly, the worldbuilding's surface complexity is an impressive pyrotechnic display that will turn off many readers who bother to try to understand it and hoodwink many others who think they do. Underneath it all is a sound character-driven story that focuses on the protagonist, Cheris, and her developing symbiotic/synergistic relationship with a disembodied hero/traitor general, Jedao, kept in storage for military emergencies. Teacher and student, a consciousness ruthlessly determined to survive to accomplish a goal and a young officer with mad math skills. Most readers will sympathize with the goal (not achieved in this book, which is the first of a series that I hope isn't too long because I'm not getting any younger).
Despite the sheer quantity of deaths and sacrifices and murders, I liked Ninefox Gambit mainly because I found it to be unexpectedly funny. It has a great deal of biting satire, wittiness, and situational humor. It put me in mind of Richard Condon (Manchurian Candidate, Prizzi's Honor) as well as the worlds (but not the plots) of Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World.
And don't forget the sentient zooform robots (servitors).
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One of the most original scifi Ideas I've read, and for those inclined to hard sci-fi it can take a bit...Read more