Check your formation instinct is ready, board your cindermoth, watch out for calendrical rot, swallow some carrion glass and blast some heretics with exotics in the name of hexarchate – it’s time to review NINEFOX GAMBIT!
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from gobbledygook and Ninefox Gambit is a military barrage of neologism. It is initially tough going – the premise is a future caste-based space-empire in which the underlying physics of the universe is open to mathematical manipulation. As a consequence, non-standard ideas are both physically dangerous and a military/social threat.
It is a bold idea and Yoon Ha Lee avoids info dumps and explanations but instead throws words, detached from clear concepts, at it. This is initially tiresome and the opening is a bit of a slog – so much so that I nearly abandoned the book. Note: don’t abandon this book.
It takes a little bit of initial effort but then it really hits its stride. A weird, violent space adventure as the central character(s) launch an offensive against a heretical space fortress.
There is a 5% dash of stuff that reminds a bit of John C Wright’s The Golden Age – a perspective of a human society whose understanding of how the universe works has itself become problematic. There is a hefty 40% of something Ann Leckie-ish – a cognitively unusual protagonist fighting for a space empire that is inherently wrong amid a background of military loyalties and a strange culture. The 40% overlaps with an Iain Bank’s vibe. Throw in some freaky space opera and a chunky dose of originality.