Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee book review

Space factions face off in Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit

Ninefox Gambit

Don’t try reading this book if you’re feeling a bit sleepy. It’s best not to start if you haven’t got a couple of hours spare to dedicate to it, either. Because while Ninefox Gambit looks, at first glance, like your average space opera, it’s really far more complex than that, and you’re going to need to pay attention to get the most out of it.

The actual plot isn’t difficult to follow. After disgracing herself by using unconventional tactics in battle, Captain Kel Cheris is offered a chance to fix her reputation. A distant fortress has fallen into rebel hands, and Cheris is charged with reclaiming it.

The catch is that to do so she’ll have to become a living host for an undead general, a brilliant but untrustworthy tactician whose consciousness has been preserved especially for situations like this.

Yes, beyond the ships, robots, and space battles, things get really convoluted. The first in a planned trilogy, Ninefox Gambit sets up an intriguing world where everything’s based on time. It’s not just an abstract concept here, it’s the basis of an entire belief system, plus a means of governmental control, and even the material that powerful reality-bending weapons can be fashioned out of.

There’s a lot to learn, and every page seems to deliver a new idea. Author Yoon Ha Lee never explains anything or pauses for the reader to catch up, so you just have to go along with it and piece things together as you go. It’s challenging, but also
deeply satisfying.

Cheris’ world feels genuinely alien, with thrillingly unfamiliar social structures and technologies, and the attention to detail is simply stunning. Just don’t ever let your concentration slip, or there’s a good chance that you will miss something wonderful.