Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I expected a deep-space and deep-time Space Opera, and I sure as heck got just that, but here's the great and wonderful exception: I also got a deep-character exploration of both Cheris, a mathematical genius and warrior, and Ninefox Shuos Judao, an imprisoned immortal General who also happens to be so quite excellent at killing that he's also considered insane. Fortunately, he's also the heptarchate's pet. Or is he? What's even more interesting is how these two interact, but saying much more than that is telling, and I seriously don't want to spoil anything. It's simply too delicious.
I should warn you all that there is a kind-of heavy learning curve at the opening, with lots of strange terms that seem like english, but have contexts and combinations that are very strange indeed. What's a calendar, you ask? Oh, it just happens to be a society-wide mental and mathematical consensual reality engine that requires, (I believe,) the rigid mindsets of all the people under it to alter reality. I had to figure that one out for myself. The author does *not* intend to pretend that you, dear reader, are dumb. Fortunately for a lot of us, we readers like challenges and like to work out so many, many terms. I mean, what's a cinderhawk, you ask? I can only give you a vague conceptualization, but it's one hell of a spaceship that can improve its reality-warping effects in conjunction with others like it.
So cool. The tech is pretty damn wild, and the world-killing tech seems to be even wilder.
So what could hold against such amazing weaponry? Oh, an entirely heretical calendar, of course, with all the people who believe that reality works a different way, and so it does.
Oh. My. Goodness. Well, I'm doing a little happy dance right now. This is WILD and FANTASTIC SF. :)
Didn't I mention that the novel holds together almost entirely through a few great characters? Oh, yes, I did. I'm going to be thinking about strategy and tactics for quite some time, and it applies to all game theory fields, whether we're talking space battles, long-games against entire calendars, or interpersonal manipulations and sweet, gloriously-satisfying endings. :)
I was never bored, but this book took me through some rather difficult times because it is so dense with information. Fortunately, with a close eye and a stout heart, it is very worth the read and most things become obvious in their nature or there's enough visualization and idea-building behind it that it all becomes clear later. I won't say this is a difficult book, but I will say that it is challenging and very, very rewarding, almost as if we're playing a long and impressive game with the author.
Which is fitting, since we're dealing with the Ninefox, Jedao. Can you guess who's gambit this is?
I think I'll be thinking about this book for quite some time. It's just that interesting and clever. It's also a great story. My only hate at this point is in waiting for the next book. I CAN NOT WAIT. There's a very long game coming, even if this one was very satisfying on it's own, and I am entirely hooked.
Thanks goes to Netgalley for the ARC
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