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review 2018-06-19 02:13
All the stars!
Ninefox Gambit - Yoon Ha Lee

Can I give this all the stars?   No, only five?   Okay, then.   


So I think that the lazy/sloppy world building reviews kept me from finishing this.   I thought they were rational and well thought out arguments, and they make me think about how I approach and read books.  And how others will approach them differently.  


Because you know what?  I don't get so much of this book.  Like a lot of this.  This book makes me feel like a big 'ol dum-dum, and so do some of the reviews where I am like 'you clearly understood something I didn't.'   I frown-y face at myself so much for being dumb enough not to really get so much of this book.   I actually am not sure I disagree with the reviews, although I have a different take on the world building: I think that things, like how the calendars work and influence the fighting, and the math of it all, were left vague on purpose, and for two different reasons. 


The first is twofold in fact: the math it would take to come up with the way the calendars actually worked, and implement them, seems to be, I dunno, so much work it would make me want to curl up in a corner and weep.   More than that, if that much math is involved in such a complicated calendar, do you really want to read that?  I mean, I'm sure many math-oriented people would geek over it, but I personally didn't want to read that much math, thank you very much!  I think Lee realized that nine-tenths of this book would be 'and this how the calendrical fighting system worked' if he were to properly explain it.   (And I probably still wouldn't get it, and I would feel like the largest dum-dum ever, so thank you, Lee, for not letting my ego take that blow!)


Secondly, I don't think it's that important.   So did it bother me at first?   Yup.  And even when I saw those reviews, I tried to read it and was like, nope, don't get it, and got frustrated.  I figured with those reviews, why bother?   But when I started reading Raven Stratagem for the Hugo voting, I realized I kind of needed the backstory, and hey, I owned a signed copy!   (A signed copy that came with me to rides on Universal Studios, FL, by the way.)


So I grit my teeth, started reading, and I just let go of needing to understand.   Once I realized the world, or part of it, was incomprehensible, I allowed myself to appreciate the nuance of the political system, those who rebelled against it, and the characters' interplay and growth.   


And I found that I loved this: I didn't care that this book made me feel stupid, massively, epically stupid.  I didn't care that I didn't get so much of it.   I just wanted more


Of course, this book has loads of the kinds of angst and mind-fuckery that I just love, so it filled a hole in my soul.  And I even sent the author a note saying that after the shitshow of a wedding and my grandfather's passing that these books kept me trucking. 


He sent me back a lovely e-mail that said he was glad they brought me comfort.  I own this as an e-book - and an audiobook.  I'm probably going to listen to the audiobook soon and may invest in the second and third, if I can get over Jedao's voice.   The problem with audiobooks is that often times the characters voices don't match the voices in my head, and I listened to a bit of Ninefox Gambit earlier tonight.   Jedao's voice might kill this trilogy as audiobooks for me, to be honest.



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text 2018-06-07 23:42
Reading progress update: I've read 55 out of 384 pages.
Ninefox Gambit - Yoon Ha Lee

Unsurprisingly, I love the Sparrows.

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text 2018-06-07 22:25
Reading progress update: I've read 25 out of 384 pages.
Ninefox Gambit - Yoon Ha Lee

"I wish the Kel would devise more reliable tactical ability batteries.   I'm going to let Jedao figure out the - fuck me sideways with a drill press, is that a Kel with decent math scores?"


Oh, good, so I'm going to enjoy at least one character in this!

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review 2018-04-15 00:54
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
Ninefox Gambit - Yoon Ha Lee

I know I said I had hangups about one of the setups near the start of the book and it still seems odd to me, but overall this book is really good. Once I was past those first few chapters, I was pretty much glued to the book.


Cheris is a fairly low-ranking infantry officer in the Hexarchy who is unusually skilled at math. She fights the Hexarchy's battle against heresies because unorthodoxy in the Hexarchy is serious business: it screws up their exotic technology, including their starship drives. They run their society based on a calendar that grants them access to exotic technologies. It's weird but it's cool and it works.


After a disastrous battle on a heretical planet (heretical calendars can grant access to their own exotic technologies, by the way), Cheris is given a chance to redeem herself by participating in a kind of contest where several officers submit their plans to retake the Fortress of Shattered Needles, which has been tainted by heresy. This is the part of the book I took issue with. Regardless, as a result, an ancient, possibly insane general is resurrected and basically mentally grafted to her and she gets sent to retake the heretical fortress. Cue a lot of conversations where the reader doesn't really know whether the general can be trusted and a lot of generally interesting battles. There is some blood and gore in the battle scenes, naturally, but also some really cool exotic effects. Like turning people into glass pillars. Cheris is valuable because she's good enough at math that she work out how to modify the orthodox formations and technologies to fit the new design space created by the heresies on the fly.


Oh, the Hexarchy is called that because it's composed of six factions, and people belonging to a faction take the faction name as the first name in their title. The factions are a bit confusing to follow at first but the most important ones are the Kel, Cheris's faction, and the Shuos, the general's faction.


Other highlights include Cheris's relationship with servitors, sentient robots who seem to have their own ignored shadow-society in service to the humans. She hangs out with them sometimes and watches duelling dramas. The asides and jokes about math and people's skill or lack thereof were fun. I did lots of highlighting on my ereader, but I'm not sure how much sense quotes would make without context. And I became more and more amused by "Calendrical Minutiae" section of the reports from the heretical side. Some examples:

Calendrical Minutiae: Year of the Fatted Cow, Month of the Chicken, and it’s bizarre that people voted in farm animals for this newfangled calendar, but make it Day of the Silkworm? Send me a memo if Doctrine has come up with something more thrilling.


Calendrical Minutiae: Year of the Fatted Cow, Month of the Chicken, Day of the Rooster. Why both chicken and rooster? Who knows. I’ll ask during the next vote.


Calendrical Minutiae: Year of the Fatted Cow, Month of the Partridge, Day of the Hedgehog, I need to program some macros, and fuck the hour.

See? Amusing. And I suppose the reports didn't actually give too much away; they just provided context for what would have seemed really opaque otherwise.


Anyway, I really enjoyed this and look forward to reading the next book, although I probably won't dive into it immediately. Yay for cool new-to-me authors!


Oh, what the hell. Here are some of the exchanges between Cheris and Jedao:

“Seriously, what’s bothering you?”
“It wasn’t a fair fight.”
Jedao’s brief silence spoke volumes. “The point of war is to rig the deck, drug the opponent, and threaten to kneecap their family if they don’t fold,” he said.


“I didn’t want to manipulate her into it,” Cheris said.
A soft pause. “All communication is manipulation,” Jedao said.


“You have a chance of being a decent general someday, but not if you pick up bad habits.”
“Are you trying to pass off a massacre of your own soldiers as a pedagogical exercise?”

And about the servitors:

(There were many more servitors’ doors than the humans realized, or than the humans had designed, for that matter. But then, servitors had done a fair deal of the construction work on the moth to begin with.)


13610 had been loaded into a propaganda canister that it refused to dignify with a number.

And some of the math:

“Weniat to Colonel Ragath” ...

“Captain,” Ragath’s long-suffering voice came back, “one of these days I’ll figure out why the Nirai can recite transcendental numbers to hundreds of digits while drunk out of their minds, but can’t remember their own ranks.”

Previous updates:

46 %

19 %

1 %

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text 2018-04-14 16:23
Reading progress update: I've read 46%.
Ninefox Gambit - Yoon Ha Lee

Rereading some of the first chapters helped, although the only way the officer competition makes sense is to have an excuse for Cheris to volunteer to host Jedao. And even then it's pretty weak. I mean, how do the officers fall for it?


The rest of the book has gotten pretty intense, with the insane general messing with Cheris's head while still apparently helping her. Maybe. You get the feeling that he's playing his own game that may or may not coincide with her goals.


I'm not sure if the "reports" from the heretical region are giving too much away though...

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