Ninefox Gambit - Yoon Ha Lee

Ninefox Gambit was one of those books for which I'd been waiting with anticipation for what seemed like an age - I'd previously loved short fiction by this author so was eager to see what they could do with the longer form, and the more I heard about it, the more I wanted to get my hands on a copy! Anyway, it didn't let me down (which has not always been the case for things I've looked forward to this much...).

 

The basic premise of Ninefox Gambit is that it's set in a universe ruled by the hexarchs, whose clans run everything between them - people tend to self-select into one or other clan, based on their abilities as much as their upbringing. The Kel, of which our main character Cheris is one, are the soldiers and much is made of the importance of self-sacrificing loyalty, which has also been supported in recent years by the existence of a way of programming said soldiers to unflinchingly obey any order. This is a universe run on mathematics and the rule of number as the equivalent of religion, so when the inhabitants of a particular space station start to mess with this, Cheris is tasked with their return to right-thinking ways. 

 

How she is meant to do this is with the assistance of a long-dead general, Jedao, whose consciousness is wheeled out on a regular basis despite the fact that centuries earlier he'd gone mad and slaughtered pretty much everyone around him, friend and foe alike. Cheris discovers, though too late to protest even if she wasn't Kel, that she's destined to be Jedao's latest host and be able to share his thoughts and experience, though he can't overrule her. As their partnership goes on, Cheris begins to question exactly what happened and whether she's being set up - of course she is, otherwise this would be quite a short book - not to mention whether or not she wants to take on Jedao's quest for vengeance for herself. 

 

What I particularly liked about Ninefox Gambit was a couple of things: the world-building is particularly vivid, but also Cheris seems like a real individual with genuine life experiences other than just being 'a soldier'. She's someone who has forced herself into a particular mould to escape the limitations of her upbringing, which she discovers is something that Jedao had also done. Anyway, Ninefox Gambit is the first of a trilogy, though sadly there's no apparent date for book 2 (Raven Stratagem) to hit the shelves though it's been finished at least - regardless, I'll be waiting with even more impatience now!