New York Times: It’s easy to get lost in the kaleidoscopic world-building of NINEFOX GAMBIT (Solaris, paper, $9.99), the first novel by the well-regarded story writer Yoon Ha Lee. Lee submerges readers without explanation into the hexarchate – a star-spanning far-future society whose culture relies on advanced mathematics to produce “exotic effects” that are nigh magical. …. The story is dense, the pace intense, and the delicate East Asian flavoring of the math-rich setting might make it seem utterly alien to many readers yet metaphors for our own world abound. Mathematics is often lauded as a universal language, but this is blatantly untrue; for universality to work, adherents must believe in the same basic truths, or principles, to the same degree. Lee’s quasi-religious treatment of mathematics, and Cheris’s need to simultaneously exploit and rely on Jedao, both serve as metaphors for colonialism. (As does the quiet, oblique rebellion taking place in the background amid the hexarchate’s artificially intelligent servitors.) And the lesson of colonialism applies as well: Brute-force domination gets you only so far. For stability, trust is key.
Readers willing to invest in a steep learning curve will be rewarded with a tight-woven, complicated but not convoluted, breathtakingly original space opera. And since this is only the first book of the Machineries of Empire trilogy, it’s the start of what looks to be a wild ride.