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Ninefox Gambit

Written by: Yoon Ha Lee
Narrated by: Emily Woo Zeller
Length: 10 hrs and 52 mins
4 out of 5 stars (16 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The first installment of the trilogy, Ninefox Gambit centers on disgraced captain Kel Cheris, who must recapture the formidable Fortress of Scattered Needles in order to redeem herself in front of the Hexarchate.

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' career isn't the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the Hexarchate itself might be next. Cheris' 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.

©2016 Yoon Ha Lee (P)2016 Recorded Books

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Spectacular!

This book is spectacular. It challenges gender expectations by showcasing so many women in military leadership roles. Each time I read a new name, I assumed a man, and each time I was PROVEN WRONG it made me that much happier. By the end of the book, I was expecting women and surprised whenever I was wrong.

The casual inclusion of same sex pairings and bisexuality was amazing. It was handled with a tone of "that's just the way it is." Each time I saw a new same sex pairing or an acknowledged bisexual character, it was another small victory for me.

Then we get to the main characters themselves. Dynamic, intriguing, and easy to love (even the mass murderer Jedao, I know... but read the book). I loved Cheris from the very first chapter, when she humanized the Kel and servitor victims of war alike. I adored the servitors. Even the heretic reports had me giggling. Every character was fantastic and faceted.

And can we talk about the math-based world building?! I love numbers and that alone drew me in to be amazed by the rest of the book. The formation effects, using geometry and positioning of bodies or ships to achieve certain effects, is so cool. The fact that certain technology only works provided a certain calendar is neat, too. I loved everything about this world and I can't wait to read the next two books!

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Jose Alvarez
  • 2017-04-02

Just too confusing with enough context

I listened to the whole book because I really wanted to give it a chance, but I just couldn't enjoy it.

The technology described in the book is confusing and the author fails to give enough of a description or context to help the reader understand what he heck they are talking about. Those description of the entire society structure is confusing and never contains enough information to help the reader understand what is the purpose of it all or what the characters are even talking about. I'm as clueless now as I was at the beginning, but now I'm frustrated. By the end I just wanted the damned thing to be over so I could move on to a better book.
I have the give the narrator credit, she did a good job and if not for her, I might not have bothered to finish the book at all.

20 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • S. Yates
  • 2017-01-07

Outstanding Plot and Wonderful Narration

What did you love best about Ninefox Gambit?

Emily Woo Zeller's narration made the book come alive, she is a treasure. Only made better by a well-written and expertly plotted story.

Any additional comments?

A must-read for science fiction fans. The book is tightly plotted and intricate, dropping the reader right into an unfamiliar future, with any explanation and context shown 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 glee of military planning. This is the first in a series and though left in a cliffhanger, the story of the initial book is nicely wrapped up so you aren't left completely in exquisite anticipation. I cannot wait for the next entry.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • D. Donovan
  • 2017-09-19

The title of this novel should have been: She said

What would have made Ninefox Gambit better?

Using other attributives other than "she said." Even when Cheris asks a question, the author uses "she said." To make it worse, it sounded like the narrator recorded the attributives separately from the dialog and then they were inserted where needed because every single "she said" has exactly the same tone and reflection. It was very jarring and distracting because the way she says it is very robotic and so out of place it's all you can focus on.

A few "she argued," "she contested," "she laughed," etc. would have helped this story flow so much better.

What do you think your next listen will be?

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Would you be willing to try another one of Emily Woo Zeller’s performances?

I would, but not if the story is written by Yoon Ha Lee or produced by this audiobook's producer.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Ninefox Gambit?

I don't know, there's a ton of juxtaposition in the story that is not necessary, so I'd start there.

Any additional comments?

Really, really didn't like this book and I was so excited to listen to it based on the tremendous hype it received.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • a
  • 2016-06-29

Sails similar waters to the Ancillary series

Any additional comments?

I had to re-listen to this book to figure out whether I liked it or not (I was already impressed by the language and characters).

That sounds like faint praise but for me it means that the book was complex enough that I needed another go round to understand everything.

It's definitely worth a listen if you like the Ancillary books (although AI plays a very minor role).

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Michelle @ In Libris Veritas
  • 2017-09-07

Didn't Work for Me

Ninefox Gambit is a fast paced first installment of a series fit for the hardcore sci-fi fans. I’ll just preface this review with a few little warnings the most important SPOILERS (maybe…I don’t even know what is and isn’t a spoiler for the freaking book)! Secondly, DO NOT GET THE AUDIO (I will explain why below, but it’s good advice).

I was really looking forward to Ninefox Gambit. I’d heard about it through a podcast and a lot of the buzz over it was vague but really positive, I was sure this would be a perfect fit for me and I actually purchased it. It was not a perfect fit. It was like buying a shirt that looks great on the mannequin but has all these confusing straps and buttons, and by the time you figure out how to get it on you’ve been struggling for far too long and you just want to take the shirt back to store. In short, this book is confusing as hell. Gambit is a vague and yet overly detailed story. I was confused before we even got into the second chapter. You just get plopped into the middle of a conflict and it starts hurling weird words at you like you’re supposed to know what it means. I’m all for books that don’t hand hold the entire way through something, and I’m all for context clues and subtle building….but this doesn’t have either. It doesn’t guide you through the political system or why calendars are so freaking vital to the stability of the entire civilization. It’s a well written but highly confusing mess.

I do know what the calendars mean NOW, several hours after finishing the book, but only because I read someone else’s review and it was explained there. I had an “OH!” moment and suddenly so much of the plot made more sense. It’s similar to a hive mind (but not) and it requires all thoughts to work in tandem toward the same system of reality and when someone becomes a heretic they’ve basically broken away from that thinking and then Calendrical Rot happens setting off a chain reaction of others thinking outside of the guidelines. But it’s not explained like that…we’re just supposed to sort of infer that all of these made up words work in a certain way.

Now the stuff I did get, I actually enjoyed. I liked Jadao and his role with Cheris, and I love the idea of using a kind of immortal guy as a tactician even though he’s a known traitor. BUT I didn’t get how any of that worked. I loved some of the imagery as well like Jadao’s shadow. The last chapter was pretty good because we actually get information.

I can’t even commit the story or Proper nouns to memory. I was trying but it becomes way too much. Any book that requires me to keep notes in order to follow isn’t one I want to read. A final complaint…this seems to be sci-fi because of the whole space, advanced technology, and guns aspects but the story itself is like a fantasy novel. Half of the stuff barely makes sense. Anytime someone would talk about the math of their formations and the powers they can use because of it, I just assume it was magic because it acts the same way. It works better as magic because we get no actual explanation of the way this odd technology works.

This is a dense book. It has a lot of details you’re going to need time to figure out. Because of this, you should get a print copy. You’re probably going to need to read things over in order to get them, and trying to constantly skip back in an audio is just too much. The narrator was pretty decent. I had no complaints in terms of the reading, but it’s just not an audio friendly text.

So…in short, I didn’t like it. I don’t hate it, but it’s not a book I want to revisit and I certainly don’t want to continue the series. It’s too much and not enough all at once. It’s one that I definitely suggest reading a sample of it first, so you’re not sitting through almost 11 hours of text utterly hating yourself.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Elisabeth Carey
  • 2017-05-22

Space opera and intrigue

Captain Kel Cheris is disgraced, having won a battle against heretics using unconventional tactics. Her only chance at redemption is to retake the star fortress called the Fortress of Scattered Needles, recently captured by heretics.

She has a plan. It's a desparate plan, involving reviving an undead tactician who has never lost a battle, General Shuos Jedao. Of course, in his original life, Jedao went mad and wiped out two armies, one of them his own, and he's a famous traitor, but if Cheris didn't believe in taking risks, she wouldn't be in this situation to begin with.

What follows is a battle of wits not just against the enemy, but against her chosen ally, Jedao, and even against the high command of the Hexarchate she serves. Because as vital as it is to retake the Fortress of Scattered Needles, lest the Hexarchate itself fall, they are strangely reluctant to share with her vital information that could make the difference between victory and defeat. She's fighting blind, and her only real ally is Jedao.

Jedao might be mad.

Or Jedao might be perfectly sane, and have her own agenda.

There's lots of action here; it's a campaign to retake a captured fortress. There's also a carefully textured unfolding of the characters of Cheris, Jedao, and the nature of the Hexarchate itself. The technology here calls to mind Clarke's Third Law, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," and at the end of this first book of the trilogy, I'm not at all clear on exactly what calendrical heresy consists of. That's not really the point, though. The real questions here are whose values will prevail, and how Cheris can decide who to trust.

The characters and the challenges completely pulled me in. Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Steven
  • 2018-09-28

10 hours to go but I don’t think I’ll bother.

I guess it was just not my cup of tea. I think I expected a little more substance. Oh well.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Matthew
  • 2018-08-08

Doesn't translate well to audiobook

I imagine this would be good in anime or text format, but it's horrible as an audiobook.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • travisophila
  • 2017-09-18

unintelligible

It made no sense. I couldn't finish it. The book kept up bringing up staggering amounts of ideas in the author's universe. At no point after a few chapters did anything make sense or flow in a linear fashion.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Michael G Kurilla
  • 2017-08-12

Hard to nail down the genre

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee portrays itself as a science fiction piece, but it strays into the fantasy realm in a haphazard schizophrenic fashion. The premise is a disgraced young military commander who gets a shot a redemption, but must join with a dead, but preserved former military commander who never lost and went mad and committed mass murder. The action takes place during a campaign to retake a fortress against a backdrop of a society organized around subgroups of various talents with everyone maneuvering their hidden agendas.

The sci-fi elements are bizarre and poorly rendered. The universe operates with a kind of reversed space-time continuum or rather a time-space frame where time and the control of time itself appears to impact the physical world. There's much reference to calendarical mechanics such that "heretics" march to a different beat and create their own calendars. Unfortunately, the author provides little to no context or background for what all this means. Numbers and math are very important such that the military disgrace was the result of using a non-standard formation. While there could be some internal consistency in this type of universe, the author introduces features such as "exotic" weapon that border on magic as well as attacking a shield in such a way to disrupt the thought processes of the shield operator in order to breach. At the same time, the little revelation about the "heretics" displayed a light-hearted, cavalier attitude that was inappropriate to the action. Also, the competition among the various factions was poorly detailed and the distinction between the hexarchate and the heptarchate was never articulated. Lastly, the whole purpose for the bulk of the plot appears to have been to eliminate someone already stuck in a box from the beginning.

Overall, this is tough listen, made more difficult by a narrator with little range. Most of the characters had a similar accent and following conversations was hard, especially as names and titles were obscure. While conceptually ambitious, the works falls short on delivery.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful