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Zero Sum Game

(Cas Russell #1)

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  1,162 ratings  ·  254 reviews
Cas Russell is the geek's Jack Reacher... ZERO SUM GAME is a smart, accessible sf thriller with blockbuster appeal.

Cas Russell is good at math. Scary good. The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight, and she'll take any job for the right price.

As far as Cas knows, she’s the only person a
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 2nd 2018 by Tor Books (first published January 1st 2014)
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Katie Zero Sum Game was originally self-published through Amazon as ebook only. Recently, Tor picked up the book and is re-publishing it for print, hence th…moreZero Sum Game was originally self-published through Amazon as ebook only. Recently, Tor picked up the book and is re-publishing it for print, hence the Amazon pre-order link.(less)

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Average rating 3.67  · 
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Mogsy (MMOGC)
3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang was a fast-paced and entertaining page-turner that put me in mind of a sci-fi blockbuster thriller. The story’s protagonist, a self-described retrieval specialist named Cas Russell, is a quick-witted and legitimate badass who is scarily good at what she does. People may hire her to do rough jobs like smash-and-grabs or hostage recovery, but her logical mind ensures she always has a plan. Her t
Reseña en español en el blog

First of all, thank you to Tor Books and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange of my honest opinion.

I’ve had my eye on this book, first self-published in 2014, for a while, so when I heard Tor was going to reprint it this year, I knew I had to read it. After all, a thriller in which the main character’s superpower is no less than math made me too curious to let it pass.

Even though Zero Sum Game turned out to be very different from what I exp
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to a NetGalley ARC I've had this gorgeous piece of speculative fiction sitting in my tbr for long weeks. At the publisher's request, reviews shouldn't be posted more than two weeks before publishing date. My excitement and expectation levels were through the roof before I could finally dive into this amazing story.

This is a crime thriller with PNR elements.

🌟 Non-stop action
🌟 Utterly unique characters
🌟 Mind bending mystery
🌟 Great flow & pacing

I was so hungry for it that I literally inhale
1) Classic case of WHY THE HELL DIDN'T I READ THIS SOONER (seriously, I had copies of the self-published books before Tor picked this up. WTH @ me)

2) NEW FAVORITE ALERT. Cas is a fucking badass. Who knew math could make such a kickass babe.

3) I love Rio. Nuff said. (Someone needs to spill their guts, pronto, though!!)
Total, popcorn fun. A protagonist whose normal reaction to situations is to shoot first (and probably second, too) and whose superpower is applied physics and geometry, or math, as she calls it.
Cas Russell does retrievals, and her latest case gets her into serious trouble, on the run with various shady types after her and the detective on the same case. There are lots of examples of Cas' amazing ability to figure out where something will be, based on computations, and a growing sense that there'
Sep 25, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

Zero Sum Game is a sci-fi thriller and the first book in the Russell's Attic series. It follows Cas Russell, a mercenary whose superpower is based on mathematics.

I think this is the kind of story that would work perfectly as a movie. It's fast-paced and full of action, fight scenes and unpredictable twists - just the kind of thing I'd like to watch on a screen. Someone please adapt this, I need it.
As a book, it's not exactly my kind of thing, but I liked it anyway.

I'm not sure sci-fi th
Peter Tillman
Oct 29, 2018 rated it liked it
An action-filled first novel, featuring Cas Russell, a female super(anti)hero who can calculate trajectories (etc.) on the fly, in her head. She’s well-armed, quick to shoot a (perceived) enemy, and her mentor and protector is a psychopathic killer. The setting is contemporary LA, and the action is largely gun battles and car chases. The supervillain, a poised beauty who has a library of first editions, specializes in telepathy and mind control, and her org, the mysterious Pithica, claims to be ...more
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Actual rating: 4.5/5

There is something beautiful about the high-speed math of a gunfight. I’ve heard other people opine that gunfights are confusing and disorienting, but to me, they always happen with perfect clarity: every bullet impact leads back to its source, every barrel sweeping through with its own exact trajectory.

Thanks to good teachers I fell in love with mathematics and geometry early in my life. There are art and thrill in reasoning, imagination and finding the truth. 

Zero Sum G
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook

On to book two!

4.5 stars!
charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)
I'll thank you to talk to me like the heavily armed person I am.

Galley provided by publisher

Rep: Latino side character

If, like me, you enjoy plenty of action (and I mean plenty) in your books, then Zero Sum Game is the book for you. From page one, it's busy and intense, and there were definitely no points where I thought there was too much of a lull. So, all in all, perfect for me and my short attention span.

You might think, therefore, that I'd rate this book a lot higher than I have. Mainly
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Zero Sum Game is a faced-paced, action-packed, nior techno-thiller with some clever twists. Reads like a mashup of Black Widow, The Matrix, and Mission Impossible. The story: An interesting morality play told by unreliable narrator Cas Russel, an angry young woman with a secret past (ala Natasha Romanoff) who excels at math and killing people. Pithica is the Matrix, a shadowy organization that affects global crime, politics and business for good, ill, or maybe both. The question is who to believ ...more
Beth Cato
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: urban, 2018, netgalley
I received this book through the publisher via Netgalley.

I've read a lot of urban fantasies--somewhere over 130--and it's hard for me to get into a new series at this point. I feel like I've seen it all. While Zero Sum Game does utilize some familiar tropes, Huang twists them around in inventive, fun ways. Straight up, Cas Russell comes across as many urban fantasy heroines do: almost friendless, ruthless, profane, and good at killing, and in the course of the book, she does make some genuine fr
Mackenzie (bookish_black_hole)
Reminds me a little of Fringe (tv show) + a tiny bit of Middlegame + rip-roaring action movies = AKA an incredible combination because there's scifi (ish) and action and grand conspiracies and moral dilemmas and Y.E.S. Ugh it was so good. Cas is amazing and brutal and wonderful and I like seeing her evolve over this book with regards to her relationships to other people. Checker was probably my fav - who doesn't love the funny computer whiz?? I need more of him. I like that there are more myster ...more
I've enjoyed a couple of Huang's short stories in the magazines over the last few years, so I thought I'd give her first novel a shot. I found it an exhausting action story that leaps from gun fight to fist fight, with the occasional car chase for a change of pace, featuring some characters with superpowers (if they wore leotards, it's be easy to call this a comic book.). It's one of those secret international society is controlling the world thrillers, but lacks the kind of building tension and ...more
Incredibly fun, action packed science fiction. I just love that the main character kicks ass... with math. Lots of murder if violence gets to you, but probably something that would be a good slump antidote.
'Note to self: To avoid being vulnerable to telepathy, become a psychopath.
No, bad plan, Cas.'


I mean the sass, the asshole demeanor, the character development, the Kate Daniels style kinda sorta found family arc? I'M WEAK. She's definitely remorseless about killing in a way that Kate isn't at all, but that's also something that improves as the story progresses so no complaints, really.

Cas has dark skin and looks Middle Eastern so points for a non-white heroine,
Nancy Meservier
Oct 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zero Sum Game is a fast paced, sci-fi/thriller that features plenty of bombastic action sequences, a diverse cast of morally gray characters, and a heroine who's basically a superhero powered by math.

And yes, it's just as fun as that sounds. I will certainly be picking up book two in the future.
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Zero Sum Game is a sci-fi action thriller from an MIT graduate and stunt woman. The protagonist Cas Russell is a young woman with super math powers. I thought it would be a cool diversion between heavier horror and science fiction stories. I was right.

Zero Sum Game is an action thriller, and it comes with both the strengths and weaknesses of the genre. It is action first, mystery second, and logical characters and settings third. That's not to say you exactly have to shut off your brain. You jus
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have GOT to start catching up on my reviews! Here's a small beginning on that --

For some reason there seem to be a bunch of recent sff novels that are getting republished this year and treated as "new" books, and this is one of them. I don't know why, but I can't say I'm sad about it.

I wasn't all that thrilled with the narrative voice in this novel, and for a good while the plot seemed like a fairly typical thriller-with-a-few-speculative-fillips. But it kind of snuck up on me, and by the end
Donna Hines
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, netgalley
Cas Russell may be good at math but not so good at hiding under the radar as a drug mule having been captured.
Courtney is the cover up who is under constant scrutiny by a peace officer on her tail with Rio going undercover against the cartel.
The plan was quite simple: Rescue kid, get out of the country, and be home in time to eat dinner.
Yes, well things don't go as planned.
Cas is a fighter. A take no prisoners gal. A real tough cookie but she may have met her match with a manipulative brain wash
Jan 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Ambivalent about this one - I liked it well enough, but the rest of the series isn't available because it's being rereleased. By the time they're all rereleased, I will have forgotten everything about this book.
This is a case of it's not you, it's me, but I'm gonna have to DNF this. I started it weeks ago and thought maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it or that thrillers were a new genre for me and I needed time to adjust. I made it 60 oages in and was just not that interested. I have a hard time imagining action sequences in my head and this book is non-stop action. (Obviously this is a plus for other people). The author is queer but there don't appear to be any queer characters. (This is totally ok ...more
Leah Rachel von Essen
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
S.L. Huang's Zero Sum Game is a compelling thriller about Cas Russell, a woman of color whose incredible mathematics skills allow her to act as a badass agent who can dodge bullets and ricochet herself through second story barred windows. When Cas gets accidentally involved with a mysterious organization called Pithica that seems to be capable of mind control, she finds herself fighting with allies, old and new, to battle an enemy that can bend people's minds to do whatever they'd like.

Huang's b
Tim Hicks
Jan 23, 2019 rated it liked it
This is tricky. I've read one Jack Reacher book. I don't watch action movies. I'm no expert.
But this is a comic book in text.

It's the sort of book that makes you think the author has a math degree. does stunts, and loves guns. Which in fact is the case.

The heroine isn't credible, the plot is iffy, the sidekicks are creepy, and for all that it's unputdownable.

So ... Cas is good at math, the way Spider-man is good at physics. But somehow that also gives her advanced parkour skills, Bruce Lee'
Tonstant Weader
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Zero Sum Game kicks off with our hero, Cas Russell, in extreme jeopardy. In many ways, jeopardy seems like a place that Russell returns to again and again and again. Russell is a retrieval specialist, not a detective, but when she was sent to retrieve a young woman from some nasty people, she steps into a huge conspiracy with worldwide implications, an organization called Pithica. There’s also an anti-Pithica which may or may not be a rogue government agency.

Russell is not your usual hero. She’s
Sep 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Actual Rating: 3.5 stars

A promising debut novel! This sci-fi/thriller follows a woman with a shrouded past and unheard of math skills that inform her fighting ability and general badassery. Cas Russell is a loner who works in retrieval- discreetly aquiring hard to get items for her clients. Her latest job involves rescuing a girl from a drug cartel, but what should have been straightforward ends up landing her in the sights of an extra-governmental organization and unraveling a deep conspiracy.
Deborah Ross
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
To say this novel grabbed me by the throat and refused to let go is putting it mildly. It’s as much a thriller as a science fictional tale. I absolutely adored that the heroine’s superpower is her mathematical ability, and how that ability allows her to use normal human physical attributes in an extraordinary way. The plot hits the ground running when Cas Russell takes a job that seems innocuous enough on the surface: rescuing a young woman who’s gotten in trouble with a drug-running gang. The c ...more
Apr 24, 2019 rated it liked it
This is the book equivalent of a bad but reasonably entertaining action movie - there are some fun moments, but also a lot of eye-rolling moments, and don't think about anything too hard or it all falls apart, but it's decent mindless entertainment. Cas Russell is a freelance expert at retrieving things (like kidnapped people) and a math genius. Her math ability lets her do some really improbable things like calculate bullet trajectories in real time, and can also be really annoying because it j ...more
Samantha Beard
Sep 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Full review to come on my blog.

The premise and MC were super interesting initially. Loved the opening few chapters and some of the characters introduced. The main issues appear pretty quickly, and the whole book is very fast paced. It's like an action movie in that way, lots of things happening every chapter, but it was a little cheesy too. Some cheese can be fun though!

Deducted stars for predictable plot twists, a MC who's wildly smart but lacked common sense, and a massively over-powered antag
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cinematic (literally I am begging for a movie of this), action-packed, and full of twists and turns that keep you hooked. Mathematics in a badass way!! I loved Cas as a protagonist and I really loved hearing all the math stuff going on in her mind. The villain felt actually terrifying and was, in fact, a formidable threat that was portrayed in a super interesting way. Also, I really appreciated the racial diversity in the cast!

Content warning for ableist language a la the “psycho” variety occurr
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