Ninefox Gambit (Machineries of Empire #1) by Yoon Ha Lee

Ninefox Gambit (The Machineries of Empire #1)RE -READ DEC. ’16

I never re-read books. I am not a fast reader and I have so many books I want to read that I simply don’t have the luxury of re-reading. I was just so bugged that I couldn’t figure this book out the first time I read it, I knew I needed to try again… Two months later.

Well second time’s a charm in this case. The trick: taking a full two weeks to read it (a little every day) to make sure I’m getting everything. My first read went quick because I basically resigned myself to being too stupid to understand, so I rushed and lost a lot of content and basically ended up screwing myself over.

Going in the second time with exposure to the language helped (just as repeated exposure to any foreign language encourages acquisition) and I can now truly appreciate the innovation and talent on display here.

It’s still not my favorite book. The middle third especially was rough going, but mostly because it’s a boring siege and we get all sorts of uninteresting viewpoints from random characters. It felt completely unnecessary.

So while my original review is still very valid, I can honestly say I ended up enjoying this after putting in the requisite time and effort. I think I’ll even continue with the series. Final rating: 3.5 stars.

ORIGINAL REVIEW:

2ish stars.

I’d classify this as ‘hard sci-fi’ not because of its scientific accuracy or technical detail, but because it’s just hard work to read it.

The closest thing I can compare this reading experience to is trying to read in Spanish. My oral Spanish is proficient enough for me to carry on a conversation with a 5-year-old. Seeing it written, I can understand more than that. Honestly, I could probably get the gist of a simple novel if I had a Spanish-English dictionary to consult. There would inevitably be a lot of content lost on me but I’d understand enough to know whether it was a good or bad book. Reading in a different language is just hard work! Naturally, Spanish-language books are not written with the intent to accommodate non-native Spanish speakers. They are written under the assumption that the reader has a sufficient grasp on the language.

Unfortunately, the only apparent human native in Lee is Lee himself. Everyone else needs to learn quickly or give up. And there’s no dictionary.

The book was mind-blowing in the sense that my mind blew up shortly after starting. And I, without a mind, was thus unable to understand anything further.

It’s super cool. I can recognize that much. I love the parts with Jedao and his relationship with Cheris. They have some great banter. There are some decent revelations and payoffs at the end. The creativity and inventiveness is beyond impressive, the worldbuilding is all-encompassing. I can’t stress enough the ingenuity on display here. I respect it, I’m impressed by it, I can see why many people love it. I wanted to love it and feel slightly guilty that I don’t. I just came away feeling like I didn’t understand enough to really enjoy it. Onto the “not for me” shelf it goes along with Uprooted and American Gods.

View all my reviews

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