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Zero Sum Game

(Cas Russell #1)

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  556 ratings  ·  156 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…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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3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  556 ratings  ·  156 reviews

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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
Helena Summers
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 in
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!!)
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
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 Gam
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,
Beth Cato
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: urban, netgalley, 2018
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
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.
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
'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,
Donna Hines
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, arc
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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's
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
Morgan Kay
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
Jim Bogue
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the way the author throws you into the midst of the action and lets the reader figure out what is going on. The book moves at breakneck speed, while the reader tries to catch up. When the heroine does not know who is on whose side the reader is equally puzzled.
The mystery is a giant conspiracy and the powers possessed by sort of good and probably bad participants are somewhat science fictional but the author makes you believe. Indeed, the only real criticism is that it slows do
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scifi
I did really enjoy this--it was fast-paced and I will read more if more appear. I have to confess I found the mind-control stuff just a little weird and I found the ending only partially satisfying. (Perhaps that will be remedied by a sequel?) but I'd still recommend it. I want my superpower to be math.
May 01, 2019 rated it liked it
a novel concept but kind of disappointing
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book has upended my 30+yr love of Piers Anthony books, and Huang takes the top spot as my favorite author.
Aug 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Cas Russell is a mercenary specializing in retrieval, and she is the best. Her math skills are practically a superpower, and she uses them to fight with exquisite precision--what is fighting, after all, but applied physics? But when she finds herself up against an organization with global reach headed by people who can control minds, her ability to do complex calculations in the blink of an eye may not be enough to bring them down. This cinematic near-future sci-fi thriller never lets up. With a ...more
Leslie Ann
Abandoned after 2 (of 12) hours because nothing (prose, plot, characters) grabbed me, and Cas's math calculations annoyed me.

Attempted: 15 June 2019
Sarah (CoolCurryBooks)
Zero Sum Game is an action packed, speculative fiction thriller. Cas Russell knows there’s something different about her abilities – she’s very good at math, to the point where she sees the mathematics that underlie the everyday world. Thanks to this sixth sense, Cas can pull off amazing physical feats by almost instantaneously calculating the trajectory of bullets or the necessary angles and forces to win in a fight.

Cas Russell might have powers, but she’s more a super-powered anti-heroine than
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Other books in the series

Cas Russell (3 books)
  • Null Set (Cas Russell, #2)
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“I'll thank you to talk to me like the heavily armed person I am.” 4 likes
“my headache finally dissipating as the mathematics rose in ghostly shadows,” 0 likes
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