Gary's Reviews > Ninefox Gambit

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
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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 sense of humor as dry as dust and dark as the abyss. No one sells the irrational as rational like Yoon Ha Lee.

The setting and plot of Ninefox Gambit are as perfectly tailored to his strengths as a writer as any of his short works. The Hexarchate is a fascist empire that explifies blurry rationale; unequivocally certain of it's own perfection, despite the fact that perfection entails using narcotics to induce loyalty in its subjects and engaging in perpetual warfare against an ever multiplying roster of "heretics". These heretics attempt to break free of the Hexarchate by subverting its High Calendar - an unbroken broadcast of the Hexarchate's "perfect" belief system, which also powers its "exotic" weaponry. Captain Kel Cheris is eyed with suspicion by her superiors because of her ability to adapt to heretical changes in the calendar and use them against the heretics. It also makes her the perfect candidate to retake the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a strategically important base whose inhabitants have engaged in a particularly dangerous form of "calendrical rot". Cheris' strategy for retaking the fortress is to merge with the undead General Shuos Jedao: a brilliant strategist who never lost a battle, but also went insane and murdered his own troops alongside the heretics. Jedao lives up to his reputation once Cheris' assault on the fortress begins, but his subtle mind games force her to question whether he is leading her down the same path to madness he once succumbed to, or worse yet the nagging suspicion that his actions weren't mad at all.

There are too many things I loved about this novel to list them all. On the macro scale, its brilliant set pieces and compelling characters, careful plotting and use of dramatic irony to convey the constantly crossed purposes and contradictory goals of the Hexarchate and its subjects, and of course Lee's hypnotic, radiant prose. But as with most great works of fiction, it's the little touches that elevate this novel - the minor heresies everyone has to commit to get through their day with their sanity intact. Like the Lieutenant who is composing music in her head when she receives her orders, and laments that the "one problem with military life is that you can't schedule the interruptions." Tragically, she is unable to fully appreciate the ironies implicit in that statement, as the reader undoubtedly does.
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Reading Progress

February 12, 2016 – Shelved
February 12, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
June 14, 2016 – Started Reading
June 27, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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William Thank you for the review!

Sorry, but this was one of the worst and most pretentious books I’ve ever read. You should probably stay away from my review of it.


message 2: by HBalikov (new)

HBalikov Definitely high praise from you, Gary. Particularly: "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..."
Sounds tempting!


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