I’ve been thinking about reading this series ever since I was suggested it by Brian from Books of Brian and read his review of the last book in the series. I’m 99.7% sure that he’s no longer active, but that doesn’t mean I forgot about his suggestion or post.
Author: Yoon Ha Lee
I got this one from my library because I went seeking another book, then saw these and was like, “Heh, now I don’t have to buy them. Suckers.” You can read the first review of the series, Ninefox Gambit, here.
At times, I thought this book was way better than the first, but other times I was like “hecks no”. The first chapter, at the very least, wasn’t as mind-blowingly crazy as the first chapter in Ninefox Gambit. The plot was very political and complex, which is always something I can dig, but some of the many issues I had with Ninefox Gambit remained difficult to trudge through in this book. In addition, it just wasn’t as fun as Ninefox, but it did have a more reasonable, better plot that wasn’t just a smash-up of Starship Troopers and Heart of Darkness.
The big issue is still that this just doesn’t feel like sci-fi, but like fantasy. Sure, “science, when sufficiently advanced, seems like magic,” but this just doesn’t even feel like science fiction. They fly around in moths, not ships, which I guess is fine. But everything feels like this vaguely East-Asian flavored space magic. The battle scenes, as a result, read like an anime wherein they’re just shouting names of moves that don’t make sense.
Something else that bothered me in this book was that one of the main characters, Mikodez, had a trans-man brother who he often had sex with. I don’t mind the trans part, no matter what you may think about North Carolinians, but the brother part? Got me. Reeeeally got me. Not a fan of incest, not a fan of “my brother’s hard cock” type of thing. Hard nope. Had to put the book down for quite a while after that part, even if it was brief.
Lastly, the book didn’t really focus on the main character of the first book in the way it did in the first book. The narrator-focused characters were all new, and they all had their own interesting flavors, but Cheris as she was presented in Ninefox Gambit was one of my favorites.
3/5 Discoball Snowcones
The story of Raven Stratagem was that General Jedao abducted a Kel Swarm by hijacking the Kel’s heirarchical structures. The Kel have something called “formation instinct,” which means they can’t disobey orders without significant discomfort or death. Because of Jedao’s standing, he couldn’t be disobeyed by anyone other than non-Kel or failed Kel, so he kicks them off the ship.
Everyone figures out that Jedao plans to bring down the hexarchate government by making people love him, and a bunch of people defect from the hexarchate because Jedao’s a smug bastard. But no one can figure out how Jedao intends to make his splinter faction work for good.
That is, at least, until they realize that it’s just Cheris pretending to be Jedao. She’d eaten his memories in Ninefox Gambit, and most of Raven Stratagem led you to believe that she’d been killed or completely possessed by Jedao. Cheris, as she was presented in the first book, was perfectly powerful for her position. She had to fight Jedao as well as her enemy, and that was probably the most tense part of the book. Here? Cheris with Jedao’s skills was way, way too overpowered. Mary Sue all to heck. She didn’t have the same characterization at all, and she may just as well have been Jedao. The only difference I could detect between Cheris in Raven and Jedao in Ninefox was that Cheris was nice to servitors and good at math. That’s just added powers, nothing else.
One left! Sure, it’s a tad bit longer, but it’s the last one and then I’ll be done!