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Zero Sum Game

(Cas Russell #1)

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  1,581 ratings  ·  357 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
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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Average rating 3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,581 ratings  ·  357 reviews

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Ann Prehn
Sep 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: You know who you are
Recommended to Ann by: I found it on Absolute Write Water Cooler.
I slipped down from my loft, brilliant red angles triangulating in the 60% daylight, each step on the ladder calculated exactly for cat-like speed and maximum effectiveness. I opened my laptop, my mind going through the numbers. Five stars for the zero sum I calculated was needed to get this frenetic book to the e-market, a victory for the 99%. Eat your hearts out, vile publishers. Minus one star for my jealousy. Hah! Take that, you bitch. Wait! My calculations told me that Huang spent money on ...more
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
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, read-in-2017
This book has one of the best opening scenes I've ever read. It's awesome!

So why the 2 stars? Because that's the high point, sadly.

This suffers from typical First Book Problems, like inconsistent narrative, uneven characters, repetitive and frequently obtuse dialogue, and, worst of all, a weak ending. I bought this book years ago and kept putting it down. In the meantime I've read numerous books that were two or three times longer with ease. Just in terms of pure "time spent with the story", it
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
Margaret Lesh
Cas Russell is an extractor/assassin/weapons specialist. This woman has skills. She thinks and sees math, measuring distances and angles, using geometry and mathy type calculations to measure to the most precise degree. This makes her a total badass assassin: She never misses a target. A mercenary, anti-social, almost anti-hero, I found myself rooting for her despite her prickly nature, which is a tough balance for a writer. How do you create a character that’s not necessarily a “good” person ...more
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
R.F. Kuang
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My review at Journey to the BEST! Link here for a Q&A with the author:

S.L. Huang’s ZERO SUM GAME might have the most alluring pitch I’ve ever read: Cas Russell, mathematical genius, fights crime and kicks ass with lightning-quick calculations that supplement her prodigious martial arts abilities. But she might have finally met her match in someone “who can reach directly into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips.” Cas’s power is
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
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
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff, spacetoaster
I honestly can't tell you how good this book is; it could be objectively terrible and I'd still love it, since it was apparently written to my exact specifications by an extremely willing and able party. Like. Wow, could this be any closer to precisely what I want from my fiction? Only if someone fell in love with a robot or built a spaceship out of spare parts, pretty much.

Our hero (ish) is Cas Russell, applied mathematical genius -- she's not finding her Erdos number or proving the Riemann
This is a fast-paced thriller with lots of action and fighting and a diverse cast and secret organizations and subterfuge and general sneakiness and ass-kicking. Cas is cold and efficient, but with just enough humanity to keep her somewhat sympathetic. Her two companions bookend her nature quite well: Rio is basically a serial killer channeling his violence toward the bad guys, while PI Arthur is the heart and morality of the group. The conflict between them is very well done, particularly ...more
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 Game
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook

On to book two!

4.5 stars!
c, (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 ...more
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
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 ...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
Shaun Duke
May 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
SL Huang has a Twitter account. One day, SL Huang talked about her new book, Zero Sum Game. I said, "Hey, why don't I have that in my pile of books to read for review," and she said, "Well, fine, I'll put it in your inbox you complaining whiny person." Thus began a glorious literary friendship.

Of course, that story isn't exactly what happened, but it's the version I'm sticking with for now. In truth, I came to Zero Sum Game with a lot of expectations: I wanted a fun, adventurous book with crisp,
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
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.
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.

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
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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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