Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

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Publisher’s description

“To win an impossible war Captain Kel Cheris must awaken an ancient weapon and a despised traitor general.

Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics.  Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics.  Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake.  If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.

Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.

The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own.  As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao–because she might be his next victim. “

 

I attemped to read Yoon Ha Lee’s collection of short story Conservation of Shadows earlier this year and I did not finish it because, eventhough I really enjoyed her prose, her stories were a bit too complex for me and most of the time I was completely confused by them. However, I don’t like to « give up » on authors, especially when I like their ideas so, when I saw Ninefox Gambit on Netgalley I decided to give it a try.

And I am so glad I did.

Ninefox Gambit is military space opera/hard SF novel and I never read something quite like it. This book is about 380 pages but it as epic as a 800 pages tome, it’s full of extremely unique and fascinating concepts. True, at first, it’s completely overwhelming and even if I won’t call this book hard to read, at first, it is pretty challenging.

For example, a lot of concepts are introduced right at the beginning like « calendar » or « formation instincts » and it takes a while to understand exactly what they are referring to.

A calendar is basically a mathematical reality that needs people to think a certain way to alter laws of physics. Basically if peopple believe something hard enough, it is going to be true. A calendrical rot is a phenomenon caused by people (here herectics) that don’t have the same beliefs as you and can affect your reality because in their mind, the world works a different ways.

Formation instincts is a way for soldiers to recognize their leader thanks to bodylanguage but to have this « instinct » you are brainwashed which mean that, phisically, it’s impossible for you to disobey. And this made so scenes completely heartbreacking.

 

“War is all about taking the future away from people.”

 

This book is full of those things and at first, it’s hard to understand but after a while, when you get a grasp of the world, it’s fascinating !

Also, I really liked that everything is based on math, Cheris, our main character is a math genius and I found her incredible. Because, this book not only has an incredibly rich and complex world, the interactions between the characters really did it for me. They seemed so real and relatable. I was fascinated the way they interacted with each other, I especially loved every moments between Jedao and Cheris because even though Jedea is a mass murderer, I couldn’t stop to root for him. The character depths and development were just superb.

« She knew many things, and she knew nothing. She could feel the inadequacy of her neatly ordered facts confronted by the cacophony of living cultures. »

Highly, highly recommended. I already ordered a copy of this book and I can’t wait for the sequel !!

 

I received an e-ARC thanks to Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

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Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire

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Description from the publisher :

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

This little book from the Tor.com line has been receiving quite a bit of buzz since its release so I was very curious to give it a try. I listened to the audiobook (narrated by Cynthia Hopkins) because I had absolutely no time to read this month (as you may have seen by the total lack of reviews on the blog recently). I finally finished my finals so I am on vacation! Finally! I don’t even know what I am going to do with all of my free time, so far it’s super weird but I am sure that I will find things to do (like catch up on a ton of reviews and READ).

Anyway, Every Heart a Doorway follows the idea of what happens to childrens when they return from fairyland and how they cope with our reality. It received a lot of praise from people I trust and I can safely say that I wasn’t disappointed at all in it.

This a short book (178 pages) but for me it had a really good pacing andif you are not a big fan of shorter works in general, I would highly recommend reading this because, it’s  sufficiently long to have a really interesting worldbuilding, character development and a good plot while still remaining under 200 pages (which is pretty rare for a fantasy book).

I really enjoyed Every Heart a Doorway and, for me it tackled a lot of interesting themes like what it’s like to belong somewhere and how change can affect your life and your behaviour. I could really relate to a lot of what the main characters felt eventhough, infortunetely, I obviously never went to a fairyland-like world. I also really loved how diverse fairyland worlds were depicted: in all their crazy, weird, joyful and yet macabre way.

I had some tiny issues with this book like the fact that I wished the boarding school was a little bit more used (I would have liked to see more classes about fantastical worlds because I am all about magic schools) and I wished I had known beforehand about the murder mystery elements (it’s not a spoiler, it’s actually on the description of the book that I didn’t read entirely before picking it up because I like going mostly blind into books, so I guess it’s my fault 😛 ). However, the book still really worked for me and it has such amazing parts on how it is to grow up feeling different that I can really excuse the tiny issues I had with it.

Highly recommended, I am so glad that McGuire is going to write other novellas in this world (eventhough you can read this as a standalone 🙂 ).

★★★★

 

The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor – Arthur C. Clarke Shortlist Post #2

I am currently trying to read the entire Arthur C. Clarke shortlist, before the announcement I only read Europe at Midnight but since all the other books looked interesting I decided to challenge myself to read the entire shortlist before August 24th (the date  the winner will be announced). The shortlist is as follows :

 

  • Europe At Midnight by Dave Hutchinson (That I already read at the beginning of the year and loved)
  • Way Down Dark by James Smythe (first that I read for this challenge, it had some interesting ideas it was overall underwhelming)
  • The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  • The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovski
  • Arcadia by Ian Pears

 

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“Phoenix was grown and raised among other genetic experiments in New York’s Tower 7. She is an “accelerated woman”—only two years old but with the body and mind of an adult, Phoenix’s abilities far exceed those of a normal human. Still innocent and inexperienced in the ways of the world, she is content living in her room speed reading e-books, running on her treadmill, and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human of Tower 7.

Then one evening, Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated by his death and Tower 7’s refusal to answer her questions, Phoenix finally begins to realize that her home is really her prison, and she becomes desperate to escape.

But Phoenix’s escape, and her destruction of Tower 7, is just the beginning of her story. Before her story ends, Phoenix will travel from the United States to Africa and back, changing the entire course of humanity’s future.”

 

The Book of Phoenix is the third book I read by Okorofor, I read Lagoon right at the beginning of this year and Binti in March. So far The Book of Phoenix is the only book of hers that really worked for me ; it might just be because I am getting used to her style but I really enjoyed most of the elements of this story.

The Book of Phoenix is the prequel to Who Fears Death, a book that won the World Fantasy Award in 2010 which I have not read (yet). You can read the prequel without reading the other one since I think that they are very loosely linked so if you’re scared of being spoiled, I don’t think that it is much of an issue (but don’t quote me on that).

For me, the best part about this book was the themes it explored, it was a really well-done character study but most of that, it was declaration of love to Africa and against racism. It explored the complicated relationship between the West and Africa in way that I found very thought-provocking.

One part that really stood out to me was the part where Phoenix met a man just after growing wings (not a spoiler, I mean if you look at the cover you pretty much know that it is going to happen). I cannot find the exact quote because I’m lame at reviewing and I forgot to write it down but, the man that sees her he’s afraid (normal reaction when one sees a human with wings) and asks her if she’s an angel and then takes it back « because angels couldn’t be black since only white can represent Heaven ».

This book is full of those remarks and the most schocking thing is that I can totally picture real people saying that. And that’s scary.

It’s a book a lot of people would need to read but probably won’t understand (or won’t try to) but in the time we’re living in, I’m glad that this kind of book is being published.

However, even if this book had really interesting things to say, if think that it also had some serious flaws which prevented me from giving it a five stars rating. I didn’t liked how science and scientific research were treated in it at all. All of the scientists in this book were awful human beings that couldn’t care less about hurting people.

I would have liked to see at least one « good » scientist and I was disappointed that in a book where a lot of important subject were treated thoughtfully, this wasn’t at all. Also, some plot points were a tad too convenient, I won’t say much but the whole episode at the Library of Congress was so convenient I kept rolling my eyes during the whole chapter.

The character of Phoenix was really interesting, Phoenix is an accelerated being which means that she has the appearance of a forty something and she’s really smart even if she’s actually only two years old. It allowed some really thought-provocking moments where she had the reflexions and reactions of a child even if she had a lot more knowledge and I found that really fascinating. I read some reviews that were a little annoyed with her character because of some things she thought and did but really, for me, most of her actions totally made sense with her character.

I can safely say that at this point The Book of Phoenix is my favorite story by Okorafor and now, I really want to read all of her works (which wasn’t really the case after reading either Lagoon or Binti). I am really glad it was nominated and I would be pretty happy if it won the Clarke Awards (even if for now, I am still routing for Europe At Midnight).

★★★★

Arthur C. Clarke shortlisted book I am currently reading : Arcadia by Ian Pears

T5W: Book Theme Songs

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Top 5 Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainey and if you want to know a little bit more about them you can check the Goodreads group here.

 

This week’s topic is about songs that we associate with different books whether it’s because the tone or the lyrics fit the story or because we listened to it a lot while reading a certain book.

I watched Spectre the day I started Luna:New Moon and for me this song suits the book absolutely perfectly. I will definitely listen to it on repeat while reading to Luna: Wolf Moon later this year! 😀

  • Tiny Cities by Flume and The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson

I’ve been listening to Skin, Flume’s new album on repeat since its release five days ago and I am obsessed with half of the songs. I don’t really know why but I found that the whole album really suited the tone of the Sorcerer of The Wildeeps. And for me this portion of the lyrics is a good representation of Demane’s character:

“Can I ever get ahead of what I want and what I need?
And what do I have to do to get away from what is killing me?
How can I convince myself to not believe in what I know?
When honesty is dominos falling uphill as we go”

I don’t really know why I associate the book and the song but I do. It might be because I listened to this on repeat when I moved a couple months ago and I read the book during the same period. It’s strange but, oh well. (But really, I don’t think that they have much in common 😛 )

  • Victory, Two Steps from Hell and Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson

This song is the definition of epic. I love Two Steps from Hell and this track is one of my favorite. I highly recommend listening to this while reading epic fantasy and especially while reading a Malazan book. They’re already epic but when you add this kind of music? It’s another thing entirely! 😀

  • Maybe Someday by Griffin Peterson and Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover

I cannot do this post without mentionning this song because it had been written for the book of the same name. I am not a huge fan of Hoover anymore (not since reading her last two books that I found awful) but I really like the fact that she sometimes works in collaboration with artists. Maybe Someday is about music and she has done a collaboration with Griffin Peterson so that you can actually listen to the songs mentionned in the book. I really like most of the songs and I think that they really suit the story. 🙂

 

I hoped that you discovered some new songs or at least, that you had fun listening to some of them! 🙂