7 December, 2022

Litstack Recs | Two titles from WTAW Press & Ninefox Gambit

Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee

Ninefox Gambit is military science fiction unlike anything else I’ve ever read. Mathematics are a vital part of its military strategy; from the formations the battalions enact, to deployment of ships and weaponry, to intelligence gathering. The aim is to keep calendrical integrity intact in the face of threats from heretics bent on overthrowing the ruling hexarchate’s hierology.  (Merely trying to function outside of the normal calendar is considered heresy.)

When Captain Cheris Kel of Heron Company employs unconventional (re: heretical) tactics to claim victory over the heretics on Dredge, she is disgraced. But her quick thinking and mathematical acumen bring her to the attention of Hexarch Shuos Mikodez, who advances her as a candidate to lead forces skirmishing trouble in the calendrical currents at the Fortress of Scattered Needles (located uncomfortably near the hexarchate itself). Charis proposes a solution which gains her the assignment, and she is paired with the infamous undead tactician Jedao Shuos who is a genius but also quite mad, having massacred his entire army at Hellspin Fortress hundreds of years earlier.

Yoon Ha Lee

Through Charis’ mathematical prowess and Jedao’s experience as a strategist, their Kel fighting force moves against combatants at the Fortress of Scattered Needles, attempting to reverse the effects of the dreaded calendar rot initiated by their heresies. But eventually Charis realizes there’s another game in play, one where she doesn’t know the rules or even what the endgame might be.

Confused? I was. But there’s confused, and then there’s confusing. I found Ninefox Gambit confusing only when I tried to understand every bit of it, not when I sat back and let it unfold. When I just let go, it was glorious.

It was like me watching a rugby match. I know very little about the game, but enjoy the sheer physicality of it and can tell when something good is happening on the pitch, and I can enter into its state of effort and triumph. So it was with Ninefox Gambit. I understood enough to allow the story to build around me; the cohesion of the environment that author Yoon Ha Lee employs allows for the right emotion and focus to build along with the action, so ideas such as calendar rot fell easily into place.

And Ninefox Gambit is not limited to warfare. We glimpse Cheris’ background (complete with an amazing culture and traditions) making her more than merely a strategizing commander, not to mention the unfolding of the enigma that is Jedao Shuos. There are passages narrated by random soldiers, which humanize the military precision of the campaign without compromising the fighting unit’s overriding sense of obedience. And, unexpectedly, there is a series of communications between two high ranking heretics that is both insightful – and hilarious.

Simply extraordinary. And only the first of a trio. You want different AND good? Read Ninefox Gambit and get excitedly hooked.

— Sharon Browning

Author

  • TS Tate

    Tee received a Master of Arts in English in 2008 from Southeastern Louisiana University. She has studied under Edgar nominee Tim Gautreaux, Booksense Pick novelist Bev Marshall and Clarion West graduate and World Fantasy nominee, Cat Rambo. She has more than ten years of documentation and editing experience and is currently the Editor-in-Chief at LitStack.com.   She has spent the past nine years in the corporate environment as a Technical Editor and has previously edited for Christine Rose, Phoebe North, Heather McCorkle, Laura Pauling, Anne Riley, Christine Fonseca and UF writer Carolyn Crane. With Heather McCorkle, Tee co-founded the #WritersRoad chat on Twitter.  In addition, she is working on several creative projects, including her second novel and various short stories. Her flash fiction, "Street Noises," was included in the Pill Hill Press anthology "Daily Frights 2012: 366 Days of Dark Flash Fiction (Leap Year Edition)" and her short "Til Hunt Be Done," was included in the Winter Wonders anthology from Compass Press.  A diehard New Orleans Saints fan, Tee lives with her family in Southeast Louisiana.