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Ninefox Gambit 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.
Top customer reviews
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).
I picked up both the kindle print and audible versions of this. I couldn't help thinking while listening during my commutes how sorry I was for the actor that had to read this out loud for the audible version. It doesn't exactly trip off the tongue.
Clever backstory: totalitarian/theocracy government with rigid caste systems. Magic/science triggered by beliefs, ritual and maths. Deep plot. The few main characters are deftly handled and I just loved the rebel puppet master with a sweet tooth. Well, very well, written - this ain't your average sketchy Mil SF with big guns, hackneyed "tactics" and predictable plot. The author knows his words, likes to write and likes to surprise you. Anti-thesis of a Honor Harrington novel, as another reviewer puts it? Yes, and that's an excellent compliment in my book.
But, overall it was just a bit too strange for my taste. I was left disoriented and nonplussed by the constant storm of bizarre tech/activities/deaths/social structures. The overall feel was more like they were playing war with decks of cards, if that makes any sense and the deaths mostly lacked emotional impact. A bit more pacing in the weirdness would have done wonders.
I liked it, but probably won't read further. And, avoid like the plague if you're the type of reader who doesn't like to be dumped in the midst of a complex setup with little explanation and background. This one does that in spades, on purpose.
4.5 for writing and cleverness. 3 for enjoyment.