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Ninefox Gambit

by Yoon Ha Lee

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Machineries of Empire (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9214715,950 (3.94)101
Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics. Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics. Cheris's career isn't the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next. Cheris's best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress. The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao--because she might be his next victim.… (more)

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» See also 101 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
I appreciate the inventiveness of the world. I also have a high tolerance for world-building that defies science or, sometimes, logic. But for me, the journey has to be worth it. I need to be able to understand how the world works (and not just take it from the author that the world works). Lee presents the reader constantly with things that don't make sense or are mish-mashes. I guess I could come up with some sort of understanding sometimes, but I was stopped again and again by the choices Lee made and had to pause not only to figure out what this was but to try to place this new element in the world. The story never got going for me because of this. Hard pass. ( )
  MaximusStripus | Jul 7, 2020 |
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 is a Mil-SF novel, and yes, this is also a quantum-imagination novel, but it's also one hell of wild ride when it comes to all the intrigue and the bloodbaths and the sheer wicked delight I get in switching sides among the factions.

I totally recommend this to everyone who has even a smattering of interest in reading SF, least of all so you can see what a wild ride it can really become if we allow our writers to go the full distance, to push all the quantum envelopes. :)

Original Review:

I expected a deep-space and deep-time Space Opera, and I sure as heck got just that, but here's the great and wonderful exception: I also got a deep-character exploration of both Cheris, a mathematical genius and warrior, and Ninefox Shuos Judao, an imprisoned immortal General who also happens to be so quite excellent at killing that he's also considered insane. Fortunately, he's also the heptarchate's pet. Or is he? What's even more interesting is how these two interact, but saying much more than that is telling, and I seriously don't want to spoil anything. It's simply too delicious.

I should warn you all that there is a kind-of heavy learning curve at the opening, with lots of strange terms that seem like english, but have contexts and combinations that are very strange indeed. What's a calendar, you ask? Oh, it just happens to be a society-wide mental and mathematical consensual reality engine that requires, (I believe,) the rigid mindsets of all the people under it to alter reality. I had to figure that one out for myself. The author does *not* intend to pretend that you, dear reader, are dumb. Fortunately for a lot of us, we readers like challenges and like to work out so many, many terms. I mean, what's a cinderhawk, you ask? I can only give you a vague conceptualization, but it's one hell of a spaceship that can improve its reality-warping effects in conjunction with others like it.

So cool. The tech is pretty damn wild, and the world-killing tech seems to be even wilder.

So what could hold against such amazing weaponry? Oh, an entirely heretical calendar, of course, with all the people who believe that reality works a different way, and so it does.

Oh. My. Goodness. Well, I'm doing a little happy dance right now. This is WILD and FANTASTIC SF. :)

Didn't I mention that the novel holds together almost entirely through a few great characters? Oh, yes, I did. I'm going to be thinking about strategy and tactics for quite some time, and it applies to all game theory fields, whether we're talking space battles, long-games against entire calendars, or interpersonal manipulations and sweet, gloriously-satisfying endings. :)

I was never bored, but this book took me through some rather difficult times because it is so dense with information. Fortunately, with a close eye and a stout heart, it is very worth the read and most things become obvious in their nature or there's enough visualization and idea-building behind it that it all becomes clear later. I won't say this is a difficult book, but I will say that it is challenging and very, very rewarding, almost as if we're playing a long and impressive game with the author.

Which is fitting, since we're dealing with the Ninefox, Jedao. Can you guess who's gambit this is?

I think I'll be thinking about this book for quite some time. It's just that interesting and clever. It's also a great story. My only hate at this point is in waiting for the next book. I CAN NOT WAIT. There's a very long game coming, even if this one was very satisfying on it's own, and I am entirely hooked.

Thanks goes to Netgalley for the ARC

Update 9/20/16:

And since I'm also a big fan of recursive maths to go along with calendrical rot, I'm linking back to a Tor review that linked to me. :)

We're well on our way to establishing a consensual reality, here, folks. :) ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
A decent debut novel hampered somewhat by over-zealous attempts not to describe far-future situations that would be familiar to the characters but are not familiar to the readers, resulting in a sometimes confusing story where necessary backstory was hinted at rather than explained. The characters were good and I like how she upended everything at the end. I'll definitely read the sequel; I want to see where this goes next. ( )
  andrea_mcd | Mar 10, 2020 |
Downloaded the audiobook. First few minutes were descriptions of death and gore with nothing to grab me. Nope. Returned it.
  CiaraCat | Jan 9, 2020 |
I listened to the audio version of the book and really enjoyed it. The setting is a very caste driven military setting that is fighting a war against heretics. When Captain Kel uses unusual mathematics to defeat heretics she comes to the attention of her superiors and is tapped to come up with an idea to recover a space fortress. Her idea is to bring back a dead general to take the fortress. General Shuos Jedao intelligence has been upload into a black cradle and is very occasionally brought out to solve hard battles, but he is crazy and was sent to black cradle for slaughtering his own troops. Kel has Shuos upload to her brain and he provides good advice to her for the war even though she finds herself liking him. There is more to his backstory than she was told, and the unfolding story is great.

I think I’ll keep with this on audio for my next long car trip.
( )
  Glennis.LeBlanc | Jan 6, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
Nevertheless, Cheris is still rich enough, as she stands, to make the whole book work. She lands in the middle of an elaborate and incomprehensible plan and figures out a way through it that is uniquely her own, and that speaks to what matters to her. This isn't unlike what the reader of Ninefox Gambit has to do. "You know what's going on, right?" Ninefox Gambit asks. Often, you have to say, "Uh, yeah, of course," when the real answer is "I have no idea, but I really, really care." And then you keep reading.
Lee knows that if the fate of the world is at stake, the reader has to care about that world, so he uses language as a way to reveal a beauty that can be found even in the depths of an interstellar war. He builds more in a couple of sentences than some authors manage in entire novels, and beautifully.
added by g33kgrrl | editTor.com, Aidan Moher (Jun 15, 2016)
Ninefox Gambit Is a Space Opera to Tax Your Brain and Ignite Your Imagination

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lee, Yoon HaAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zeller, Emily WooNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Folio SF (649)
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This one is for Yune Kyung Lee, best sister ever, who was there when everything began.
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At Kel Academy, an instructor had explained to Cheris's class that the threshold winnower was a weapon of last resort, and not just for its notorious connotations.
The point of war is to rig the deck, drug the opponent, and threaten to kneecap their family if they don't fold.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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When Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for her unconventional tactics, Kel Command gives her a chance to redeem herself, by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles from the heretics. Cheris's career isn't the only thing at stake: if the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.
Cheris's best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress. The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own.

As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao—because she might be his next victim.
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