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Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee
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Hexarchate Stories

by Yoon Ha Lee

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Machineries of Empire (Short Stories)

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705266,597 (3.9)4
The essential short story collection set in the universe of Ninefox Gambit. An ex-Kel art thief has to save the world from a galaxy-shattering prototype weapon... A general outnumbered eight-to-one must outsmart his opponent... A renegade returns from seclusion to bury an old comrade... From the incredible imagination of Hugo- and Arthur C. Clarke-nominated author Yoon Ha Lee comes a collection of stories set in the world of the best-selling Ninefox Gambit. Showcasing Lee's extraordinary imagination, this collection takes you to the very beginnings of the hexarchate's history and reveals new never-before-seen stories.… (more)

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Showing 5 of 5
This is a collection of stories set in the world of Lee's Machineries of Empire series (Ninefox Gambit, et al.), some previously published, several original to this collection. They kind of fall into four broad categories.

First, there are general scene-setting stories, pieces that aren't stories, really, but fragments of worldbuilding: "How the Andan Court," "Seven Views of the Liozh Entrance Exam," "Calendrical Rot." What you think of these will depend on what you think of the world of the series I suspect; I thought they were more curious than anything else, though I wish "Calendrical Rot" had served its original purpose as prologue to Ninefox, as maybe I would have understood that book more quickly.

Then there are prequel stories about the main characters of Ninefox Gambit, Shuos Jedao and Kel Cheris. These range from being just a couple pages to being full novelettes, and the Jedao ones go from the night he was conceived, through his childhood, up to key moments in his military career. Frustratingly, they are almost but not quite in chronological order. How interesting you find these will probably depend on how interested you are in Jedao. I'm not sure that learning he had a pet cat did a whole lot for me, but rereading "Extracurricular Activities" was fun, and "The Battle of Candle Arc" was the most straightforward explanation of calendrical warfare the series has ever provided. I would have liked more Cheris stories than the two we got, and honestly, I don't find Jedao terribly interesting. Give me some Kel Brezan prequels! I did really enjoy the Cheris story "Birthdays," which gives some insight into how the Hexarchate's calendar affects people's day-to-day lives.

Third, there are a few follow-ups to the original trilogy. A flash piece about Kel Brezan going to an aquarium; "Gamer's End," a second-person story about someone being trained by Jedao; and "Glass Cannon," a novella about Jedao's reunion with Cheris after the events of Revenant Gun. I wish the chronological placement of "Gamer's End" was clearer-- I couldn't figure out where it could possibly fit until I looked it up on-line after reading-- and the twist is kind of obvious. "Glass Cannon" is the longest story in the whole book, and it's an enjoyable high-stakes action piece with good character work and big implications for the future of this universe... should Lee ever choose to return to it.

Finally, there's a single story (the first in the book) that doesn't directly relate to the original trilogy, "The Chameleon's Gloves." I found this disappointing, and for a reason that relates to what makes some other of Lee's stories disappointing. "Chameleon's Gloves" sets up an interesting idea, that of a "haptic chameleon" who can perfectly imitate others' body language... but then tells a generic Star Wars-ish story where a wisecracking duo has to dispose of a gigantic superweapon, barely making use of its own concept. "Extracurricular Activities" is similar, mentioning its antagonists have a unique understanding of reality... but then telling a pretty straightforward (if enjoyable) caper story where the sfnal elements feel irrelevant. Most of the shorter pieces here are only nominally sf. Lee comes up with great worlds and great concepts, but I feel like the stories he tells make inadequate use of those worlds and concepts except as backdrop. I want the stories and concepts and plot twists to rise out of the sfnal stuff, but it doesn't consistently happen; one of the things that makes "Battle of Candle Arc" enjoyable is that it's the one Machineries of Empire space combat story where the fact that calendrical warfare is about the calendar actually feels relevant, instead of being flavor.

Anyway, this all makes it seem like I didn't like the book, but I actually did. In short form, Lee's writing is usually breezy fun, and the details of the worldbuilding are enjoyable to read about. The world of the Hexarchate is complicated and feels real, and has some interesting sfnal things to say about imperialism and oppression (it's not enough that we rule you, but you must think as we do). I would like to reread Ninefox Gambit now and see if it goes better for me than the first time.
1 vote Stevil2001 | Sep 21, 2019 |
Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee is a collection of short stories set in the same world as the Machineries of Empire series (Ninefox Gambit, Raven Stratagem and Revenant Gun). Although not all the stories require familiarity with the main series, I generally recommend having read the series before picking up Hexarchate Stories since some of the flash pieces and especially the concluding novella work better with knowledge of the characters and series events. (Though many of the stories absolutely stand alone.)

I really enjoyed this collection. Even given the slightly unusual way in which I read it; skipping over stories I had previously read meant I skipped some award worthy reads. (The reviews for those stories, by the way, are copied from my original reviews of them in italics below.) I was particularly taken with the three longer stories that were new to me: "The Chameleon's Gloves", "Gamer's End" and "Glass Cannon". The first two are meaty stories more about life in the universe than about the specific characters that featured in the series (although Jedao does appear in "Gamer's End"). "Glass Cannon" is a novella that takes place after the trilogy and, as such, is pretty spoiler-heavy for the events at the end of Raven Stratagem. Mostly because "Glass Cannon" dominates this collection in terms of page-count, my usual summing up is after the story mini-reviews (and after a spoiler shield).

“The Chameleon’s Gloves” — A fascinating story about a Kel outcast set before even the Heptarchate came into existence. And if that sentence made no sense, it’s a story about a thief given a job no one should have ever had to sign up for.

“How the Andan Court” — Flash/prose poem that I’ve read before: A flash piece that is more of a love letter explaining the absence of roses.

“Seven Views of the Liozh Entrance Exam” — Longer flash musing on Liozh examinations, told from a relative future perspective, after the faction had fallen.

“Omens” — A short story about a couple’s date, dripping with significance if you’re paying attention and have read the Hexarchate books.

“Honesty” — A short story about very young Jedao and his even younger sister.

“Bunny” — Another young Jedao and sister, this time dealing with a missing cat. A cute story.

“Black Squirrels” — A hilarious story of a Shuos academy prank.

“Silence” — A family interlude told from the point of view of Jedao’s older brother Rodao. A straightforwardly enjoyable read.

“Extracurricular Activities” — previously read: Set in the same universe as Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem, this story follows Jedao while he is still young. He goes on an undercover mission to extract a friend from academy. I really enjoyed this story. It was funny with serious moments. A good read for both readers of the novels and new comers to the world.

“Gloves” — Pretty much smut, with a bit of character exploration thrown in. I can’t imagine the framing details working very well for someone who hadn’t read the series.

“Hunting Trip” — A vignette featuring Jedao and a general stopping at a zoo en route to a hunting trip.

“The Battle of Candle Arc” — already read: Shuos Jedao leads a Kel army to victory against heretics. I had some memory of this particular battle being mentioned in the novels (Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem), but misremembered the context. In any case, an interesting read, even more so since it was published years before the novels. Clearly the authors has been living in this world for a long time. Also, the explanations of the factions and calendar were done particularly well, especially given how complicated they can get. This story is a good introduction to the world.

“Calendrical Rot” — Things get weird. Apparently this was almost the prologue to Ninefox Gambit, so it’s interesting to me that it works as a short story.

“Birthdays” — Young Cheris and her family move out of their ghetto and have to give up some of their traditions. A nicely told flash story.

“The Robot’s Math Lessons” — previously read: An adorable flash story about a robot making friends with a little girl (who I think is Cheris from Ninefox Gambit). — And yes, it was Cheris. This story is referenced in "Glass Cannon".

“Sword-Shopping” — Cheris and her girlfriend go to buy a sword. A cute flash piece.

“Persimmons” — A cute flash story about a servitor arrived at Kel Academy from a small village. Who doesn’t like sentient robot stories?

“Irriz the Assassin-Cat” — A cute flash featuring a cat soothing a child.

“Vacation” — Different characters take a trip to the zoo in this flash piece.

“Gamer’s End” — A second person short story about an advanced trainee sitting a test under Jedao. It’s one of the longer stories in this collection and is not so much filling in past anecdotes as telling a self-contained story set in the same world. And the second person narration adds some interesting flavour.

“Glass Cannon” — This is a novella (well and truly; it takes up the entire second half of Hexarchate Stories) set after Revenant Gun. It contains a lot of spoilers for the end of the Machineries of Empire series and I definitely don’t recommend reading it without having read the series. Not only will it be confusing, but it will also spoil some of the surprises and enjoyment of the series. In fact, a proper review of it is spoileriffic, so I will restrict it to my full review of Hexarchate Stories.

Full review with massive spoilers for Revenant Gun/Machineries of Empire. Do not hover over/highlight the spoiler-shield below if you don't want to be spoiled.
“Glass Cannon” was an excellent read. Taking place after the end of Revenant Gun, it follows Moth!Jedao after he escapes imprisonment by the Shuos. His one desire in life is to get his memories back from Cheris and gain some sort of closure regarding the gaps in his memory, many of them from his youth. Cheri’s, meanwhile, is living a normal life in a settlement of her own ethnic group (much depleted after the events of the main series). She is just starting to get bored with a normal life teaching maths when that life gets disrupted by the escaped Jedao and the soldiers on his tale. Despite the inconvenience to her life, she agrees to transfer Original!Jedao’s memories to Moth!Jedao, since they have been haunting her. And so they set out on a quest to retrieve a device necessary for the transfer, and run into various troubles along the way.

Aside from being a really enjoyable story, “Glass Cannon” also manages to address some of the aspects of the world building that did not fit into the main series. Certain revelations from Revenant Gun — let’s say those loosely related to servitors and their factions and the human (non)regard of them — is raised here. So as well as following our beloved characters, we get to follow a little bit more progress in the Hexarchate, admittedly, not quite to completion, since that would be a much longer story.

I definitely recommend reading “Glass Cannon” as a sequel to the series if you enjoyed Machineries of Empire. I think Hexarchate Stories is worth buying for this novella alone, but the other included stories were also worth reading (but if you have already read the longer short stories/novelettes, the flash fiction may not feel weighty enough to bother buying the book for, but “Glass Cannon” certainly is).


This was a great collection, even if it was a little unbalanced in story lengths, and I definitely recommend it to fans of Yoon Ha Lee's books. While some of the stories are good entry points to the series, the majority of the flash stories work better if thought of adding something to the universe, rather than full stories in their own rights. For the prospective reader who wants to read Hexarchate Stories but not the trilogy (but why?), I see no reason why the first half of this collection can't be enjoyed, but I repeat my caution about "Glass Cannon" being full of spoilers and probably confusing without the trilogy context. On the other hand, if Lee plans to revisit the Hexarchate/Heptarchate universe again, sign me up for reading more stories/books set in that world.

5 / 5 stars

You can read more of my reviews on my blog. ( )
  Tsana | Jul 6, 2019 |
You will want this book

Yoon Ha Lee calls several of these stories "gimmick flash" stories. Gimmick flash stories are short and revolve around some specific idea (the gimmick). Mr. Lee explains that he makes money (or at least he used to) by writing them on demand for paying clients. Cool.

All the stories here fit directly into the Hexarchate universe but they occur at different times. Most are about Jadeo.

I liked some of them very much, and enjoyed the rest. For followers of Yoon Ha Lee, this collection is a must have.

I received a review copy of "Hexarchate Stories: Machineries of Empire" by Yoon Ha Lee from Rebellion through NetGalley.com. ( )
  Dokfintong | Jul 5, 2019 |
Mostly short stories about Jedao and Cheris’s younger lives, but a final longer story about their unwilling reunion which was very satisfying (and Jedao’s not quite human nature is more fully elaborated in fairly yucky ways). ( )
  rivkat | Jun 5, 2019 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lee, Yoon HaAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nishii, BrianNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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