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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Review: Nine Fox Gambit

Nine Fox Gambit is Yoon Ha Lee's first book in a space opera trilogy. While it has all the trappings of science fiction, it's actually a fantasy story, with magic powers and a magic system based on a complex calendar with much of the elements of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar (Lee is Korean American). The calendar system determines the powers of various battle formations, when it would afford attacks, and even what kinds of weapons are viable in a space empire.

The magic system is never fully explained: you're expected to infer it from the conversations and the actions of the protagonists and antagonists in the novel. A major plot point comes from a rebellion within an empire where the rebels have chosen a new calendar system as well as a new form of government (a democracy), and the reader is treated to a view of democracy as being a "known to have failed" system.

It's a rollicking read, and very compelling: I found myself looking forward to picking up the kindle every evening to learn more about the characters and situations. Recommended. I'm proceeding right to the next book in the series.
First: the value of a game is in abstraction. Many Nirai go in for simulationist approaches, a tendency you share, but sometimes you learn more by throwing details out than coding them all in. You want to get rid of everything nonessential, cook it down to its simplest possible form.” (Kindle Loc 3629)
 “According to the Shuos,” Jedao said, “games are about behavior modification. The rules constrain some behaviors and reward others. Of course, people cheat, and there are consequences around that, too, so implicit rules and social context are just as important. Meaningless cards, tokens, and symbols become invested with value and significance in the world of the game. In a sense, all calendrical war is a game between competing sets of rules, fueled by the coherence of our beliefs. To win a calendrical war, you have to understand how game systems work.” (Kinlde Loc 2640)

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