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Ninefox Gambit

(The Machineries of Empire #1)

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  11,164 ratings  ·  1,882 reviews
The first installment of the trilogy, Ninefox Gambit, centers on disgraced captain Kel Cheris, who must recapture the formidable Fortress of Scattered Needles in order to redeem herself in front of the Hexarchate.

To win an impossible war Captain Kel Cheris must awaken an ancient weapon and a despised traitor general.

Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for usi
Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 14th 2016 by Solaris Books
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Yoon Many uses of the f-word. Sexual content is not graphic, but there's a flashback scene late in the book in which a man is raped by a woman. If…moreMany uses of the f-word. Sexual content is not graphic, but there's a flashback scene late in the book in which a man is raped by a woman. If profanity and sexual content/sexual violence are concerns, you should stay away from this book.

--the author(less)

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3.83  · 
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 ·  11,164 ratings  ·  1,882 reviews

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Rick Riordan
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
After reading the Ancillary Justice series, Ninefox Gambit was a wonderful complementary read. We are dropped into an interstellar empire called the Hexarchate, where six factions with different skill sets vie for power within the system. (Think Divergent on a galactic scale.) The ultimate power in the universe is pure mathematics. An understanding of number theory has to be agreed on and followed by everyone in the society, right down to the yearly calendar and how many days in a week. Within t ...more
Update 5/15/17 Re-read:
I got the ARC of the sequel and now that this novel has made it to the finals of the Hugos for this year, it behooves me to do a re-read since I enjoyed it so much the first time.

Does it hold up after a year and a re-read?

Knowing what's going to happen with all the twists I can expect does not reduce its enjoyment. Indeed, it only deepens it.

This is indeed a beautiful work of the imagination, running wild and free like a raven across the universe.

Yes, this i
Stevie Kincade
Year of the Sloth

Month of the Candied Yam

Day of the Engorged Marsupial

Hour of the Mollusc

Dear Mr Yoon Ha Lee,

I was particularly excited to read your story “Ninefox Gambit” as it has outstanding reviews from many smart people who's opinions I respect. It is clear from your prose and concepts that you are a very good writer and had a clear idea of what you wanted to do, then you went out and did exactly that.

I have respect for the giant middle finger you waved at the “show don’t tell” school of w

I never re-read books. I am not a fast reader and I have so many books I want to read that I simply don't have the luxury of re-reading. I was just so bugged that I couldn't figure this book out the first time I read it, I knew I needed to try again... Two months later.

Well second time's a charm in this case. The trick: taking a full two weeks to read it (a little every day) to make sure I'm getting everything. My first read went quick because I basically resigned myself to be
Althea Ann
Apr 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of my Hugo Award nominees, novel, 2016.
Intelligent, challenging Military SF/Space Opera.

I'd read a few of Yoon Ha Lee's short stories, so had every expectation of liking this debut novel - and I was not disappointed. (I'm fairly certain that at least one of the short stories is set in this universe, although I can't quite place which one.)

Captain Kel Cheris is a respected soldier in an extremely regimented, authoritarian and militaristic society. Her talent for mathematics - part of th
Aug 03, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rejected
Final Review - - Rant Warning

Truly toxic in so many ways.

I found the perfect word for this crap: Logorrhea

This book is a painful and completely zero-star waste of time.

AHA! Big Clue! - YHL went to college at “Cornell University, majoring in mathematics” [but no degree], and earned a master's degree in secondary mathematics education [to teach High School math] from Stanford University.

Perhaps YHL’s idea of math wasn’t disciplined enough in school? Lee's
Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘
Jul 02, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: scifi, dnf, 2017-reads

DNF. I... I'd say I'm not smart enough to appreciate this highly acclaimed Fantasy novel, but it would be dishonest : at 30% I've come to the conclusion that Ninefox Gambit is obscure for the sake of being obscure, and that's not something I enjoy reading.

Look, I understand the need to create an original world, and perhaps (certainly) there are thousands of readers out there who happily dive into books without having a damn clue what the story is about and what the fuck are all these things des
Mogsy (MMOGC)
3 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

I’ll admit, I was somewhat torn on this one. On the one hand, there were parts in this book that gave me a real struggle, but on the other, there’s no doubt Ninefox Gambit is one of the most fascinating sci-fi novels I’ve ever read.

Step into the incredible universe of Yoon Ha Lee’s Hexarchate, a civilization whose way of life is entirely dictated by an intricate calendar system. Mathematics is king, the governing force beh
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I don't think I've read an SF novel quite as inventive as this one since the last time I read Hannu Rajaniemi.

The Heaxarchate is an interstellar empire that makes use of exotic physics enabled by broadcast nodes seeded throughout their empire. The exotic physics are enabled by "calendars" and are referred to as "calendrical effects", and a key part of them is that they are directly affected by the belief structures of the people living within the areas covered by the nodes. So for instance, ther
Ninefox Gambit is my favorite book.
It's the kind of novel I could reread over and over and still get something new from - this was the sixth reread in two years for me, and I'm still discovering things about this world.

But let's get to what Ninefox Gambit is. This is a story about sieges: Cheris' siege of a space fortress, and Jedao's siege of (view spoiler). And it is, in fact, a very twisty book, without needing that many shocking plot twists -
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
So I picked this one up after hearing so many things about it. This is a military SF book (not my usual go-to I have to admit) which really throws you straight into the action. There's a world set up already, but the story just begins right in the middle of it and it's up to you, the reader, to figure it out.

As a concept this book is super cool. Some of the world is really exciting and seems very advanced and full of life. Other times I felt like we were lacking a lot of the world-building becua
Apr 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, nebula, hugo, sci-fi, locus
This was some dense, hard sci-fi. Dense like I remember Dune being dense, when it had taken me 200 pages to get a grip on it. Same thing with Ninefox Gambit, and frankly I’d be lying if I said I knew what the whole calendar thing was all about. So I simply accepted it as something people fought over and moved on to the story. Which is essentially a Star Wars scenario with intergalactic battles and political schemes. All of this though was made interesting by the main characters. A young rising m ...more
May 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, scifi
This book is awesome. And I mean that in the formal sense of the word: my mind is officially blown.

There is so much to Ninefox Gambit that it's hard to figure out where to start. The story takes place in a world governed by calendrical systems: in effect, the beliefs, calendar, and observances of society create topologies that in turn affect the laws of physics and allow the use of "exotic effects," which are almost always utilized as weapons. Cheris lives within the hexarchate, which is run by
Ninefox Gambit: Careful or You’ll Catch Calendrical Rot
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
I’m just going to add my two cents here, as a heretic who refuses to conform to the calendrical hierarchy that forms the basis of this mathematical military hard SF space opera with some gender-bending thrown in for extra flavoring. Ninefox Gambit has drawn favorable comparisons to Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lighting, because this book not only throws you off the deep end, but chains you up in neologisms
This book is a wild, hallucinogenic space adventure set in a far-future society that manages to be alien while retaining the memory of how fragile and beautiful individualistic humanity can be. There are Brave Robot Pals and a complicated friendship (...can you call it a friendship? well, I would, after everything) between a dude and a lady at the center of the story that manages to be one of the most horrifying/fascinating partnerships I've ever read. SIGN ME UP FOR THE SEQUEL even though I'm s ...more
2017 Hugo nominee for Best Novel -- and sigh, I have a lot of words. I know this book has gotten a lot of gushing 5-stars, so fair warning that I am not going to be as positive!

I already knew that I was on rocky terms with Lee's writing, having read a couple of his short stories and been ambivalent about one, and outright hated the other ("Combustion Hour" was literally the only story I wound up skipping in the 2014 Tor anthology). But I was hoping that with a longer pagecount and thus more spac
Sep 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Phenomenal. Like a combination of Ancillary Justice and The Culture whilst remaining very much a world of its own this book just took over my mind and made me want to see more. In fact I may need to reread it.
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Amazing, endlessly inventive; and ruthlessly clear-eyed on the cost of waging war and quelling rebellions. The technology (based on calendrical rules and complex interactions between six different factions) keeps throwing up mindblowing moments, and Cheris, caught in the machinations of the undead general Shuos Jedao and of the Hexarchate who commands her loyalty, is a sympathetic heroine torn between impossible goals.

This should be on awards lists for 2016 if there's any justice.

(disclaimer: I
Tudor Ciocarlie
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ninefox Gambit is the best novel of 2016 and exactly my kind of science-fiction. For me, the most important quality of a speculative fiction book is its "cognitive estrangement" (as China Mieville calls it), the degree to which the fiction takes you beyond your known world and throws you out of your comfort zone. And the estrangement can't get more alien than the world of Ninefox Gambit, an immersive and unforgettable universe in which the galactic government - the Hexarchate, formed by six very ...more
Jan 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mimi by: S&L January 2019
A frustrating read that eventually came together in the end in a fairly spectacular way. Or maybe I'm just saying that because I've been fighting with this book for over a week now, and the euphoria of reaching the end to find answers waiting for me is temporarily blanketing most of my initial frustration. Whatever it is, I no longer resent the amount of work I had to put in to get to those answers, although your mileage may vary.

This novel is the very definition of "your mileage may vary" becau
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Ninefox Gambit begins with a desperate battle.

I’m not talking about the battle that Kel Cheris fights in the first chapter of the story. That’s a pretty serious fight, but it pales next to the backs-to-the wall combat that you, the reader, will face. Prepare for full scale bombardment with a vast arsenal of factions, the screaming howl of incoming volleys of neologisms and massed assaults of odd and confusing names supported by an armored division of incomprehensible techno-magic. I only just ma
Strange, weird tech with stranger names for it. Interesting main characters. A story of the hexarchate empire, which is based on ultra-strict adherence to mathematical theories and calculations, and rebellions, based on alternative mathematical models, against the hexarchate. The hexarchate is made up of six factions, one of which, the Kel, which uses mind control with its soldiers. The hexarchate as a whole has a variety of weird weaponry and spaceships, and has experienced horrible violence in ...more
Mar 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
[3.5 Stars]
My Video Review:

My knee jerk reaction was to give this a four star rating because I got super into it for the last 100 pages. But the learning curve for this novel was so high that it took me a very long time before I felt like I understood the world set up (Do I understand it completely? Not really). I definitely enjoyed the main character and her journey, so I am interested in what happens next. I just wish I didn't find myself reading whole paragraphs a
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Ninefox Gambit is Yoon Ha Lee's first novel, though longtime readers of his amazing short fiction have been anticipating its advent for some time now. Ostensibly science fiction, as most military space-based adventure stories are, Ninefox Gambit highlights what Lee does best - science fantasy that feels like hard sci-fi. Lee's prose style has such perfect pitch and balance, and an effortless ability to convey a tone of ordinariness to even the most fantastical and absurd of his imaginings, and a ...more
Wow that was weird. Word associations:

Ethereal floating psyches





Formation instinct





Yours in calendrical heresy

carrion bombs





Lots of death

I just didn't get it…

3 Stars

Listened to this on Audible. Narrator was Emily Woo Zeller. At this point I think the narrator elevated the material. She was excellent.

Caveat: I admit that an easily distracted commuter likely missed tons of fascinating ideas. Will actually r
DNFed at the 37% mark.

I'd heard so many AMAZING things about this book. Combine that with the stunning cover and the fact that it's sci-fi by an Asian author and I thought this would be a sure fire hit for me.

But when I got to just shy of page 150 and I still had LITERALLY NO IDEA WHAT WAS HAPPENING, I just didn't have the motivation to push on.

Who knows, maybe I'm just too stupid for this book.

Maybe I'll go back to it at some point in the future. But for now, I'm calling it quits.
Elise (TheBookishActress)
Feb 10, 2018 marked it as tbr-maybe
Recommended to Elise by: Acqua
✨part of the 2017 booktube sff awards! I will be trying - and probably not succeeding, it's a stretch goal! - to read every one of the nominees. [aside from the middle grade and graphic because I just am not interested. sorry, maybe next year!]
Rachel (Kalanadi)
LOVED this. So many amazing concepts that take time and attention to figure out. I can't even tell if some things are magic, or just so advanced (there's a Clarke quote for that... I am too brain dead to remember the phrasing...) I am so excited for the next book!
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi
I read this book because it was billed as "Hard SF space opera" by a Barnes & Noble list of the best sci-fi of 2016.

I've been reading science fiction for basically my entire life, but even for me hard SF can be pretty impenetrable, and more often than not I find that even the more ambitious and impressive works leave me cold and alienated. Take Seveneves as a recent example. But when it works, it really works. One of my favorite sci-fi books of all time is another Neal Stephenson book with
Reread in June 2018. I think that a lot of the issues I had with Ninefox Gambit was cleared up on this reread. My criticism of the side characters isn't as valid as I thought it was because the side characters are really not in the book as much as I thought they were. I still wish there was another fleshed out character other than Cheris and Jedao but I'm retrying Raven Stratagem and realizing that this criticism has been fixed on that book.

Original Review January 2017:

Ninefox Gambit does some
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Yoon Ha Lee is an American science fiction writer born on January 26, 1979 in Houston, Texas. His first published story, “The Hundredth Question,” appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1999; since then, over two dozen further stories have appeared. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Other books in the series

The Machineries of Empire (3 books)
  • Raven Stratagem (The Machineries of Empire, #2)
  • Revenant Gun (The Machineries of Empire, #3)
“The problem with authority is that if you leave it lying around, others will take it away from you.” 31 likes
“All communication is manipulation,” Jedao said. “You’re a mathematician. You should know that from information theory.” 29 likes
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