Author: Yoon Ha Lee
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review By: Shana
A must-read for science fiction fans. Yoon Ha Lee has created a bizarre future, where a ruling structure known as the Hexarchate (comprised of six factions) manages an interstellar territory. Power is based on a high calendar that allows advanced technologies to work. The technologies often feel less scientific and more magical, working on large groups of people subscribing to those beliefs and anything that is, in effect, blasphemous undermining the workings of the empire. As a reader I am still unsure of whether it is better categorized as science (as advanced mathematics play a role, and there is truly sophisticated engineering, cognitive programming, and biological medicine at play), or as magic, or perhaps magical due to (paraphrasing the third of Arthur C. Clarke’s famous three laws) the fact that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
The plot is driven by a disgraced soldier, part of the Kel faction, who has used unorthodox techniques that put her at odds with the duty driven and process bound nature of her faction. Having used unconventional methods, this soldier is assigned to act as a conduit for a centuries old general, whose brilliance is only rivaled by his insanity.
The book is tightly plotted and intricate, dropping the reader right into an unfamiliar future, without any explanation and context shown only in glimpses, bits, and gradually over time. As alien as the technology and society are, the humans are still human, enmeshed in intrigue and camaraderie, betrayal and power struggles. Though the book is short (under 400 pages), it has all the feel of a sweeping space opera, but in the vein of Herbert's Dune, with Machiavellian political maneuvering, and a dash of Starship Troopers or Forever War in a certain delight of the minutiae of military planning. This is the first in a trilogy and though left in a cliffhanger, the story of the initial book is nicely wrapped up so you aren’t left unsatisfied as you anticipate the next exquisite chapters.
My love of reading was sparked in 3rd grade by the promise of personal pan pizzas via the BOOK IT! Program. Hmmmm... any chance that someone might give adults free food for reading? Asking for a friend...