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Ninefox Gambit

Narrated by: Emily Woo Zeller
Series: Machineries of Empire, Book 1
Length: 10 hrs and 52 mins
4 out of 5 stars (21 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
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Math and Space Battles and Intrigue Oh MY

One of the best creative and compelling sci-fi books to come out in 2016. Right from the get go the reader is immersed in a compelling, original universe where faith can be measured and used by the Hextarcate's official calendar and it's soldier's loyalties are 'improved' by formation instinct. This is a world and a story that feels fresh and very well thought out. Lee does not talk down to the reader and the story benefits from it. A must read.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for Jose Alvarez
  • Jose Alvarez
  • 02-04-2017

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
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  • S. Yates
  • 07-01-2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for Elisabeth Carey
  • Elisabeth Carey
  • 22-05-2017

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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Profile Image for Steven
  • Steven
  • 28-09-2018

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

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Matthew
  • 08-08-2018

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

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

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

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

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

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • midian
  • 29-07-2017

A difficult novel

This came highly recommended. It 's focus on one key battle, and the people and influences creating around this scenario. It is quite original in its intense focus on this.

I enjoyed how well women were represented - I was shocked at myself when I realised how many times I assumed a character was male until he stated their gender was female. Also characters are graced with a sensual, sexual fluidity which is seldom seen in scifi.

It is also a bit grim with an extraordinary amount of graphic violence and gore as it is centred on the military and war.

However too many things just left unexplained and hanging which was very annoying in the beginning. It seems this is the writer's style not to divulge too much and just hope that you catch on. It is a fine line between not wanting to spoon feed the reader and giving practical information that highlights the significance of an event or action. I often just wanted more explanation so I could understand the point being made.

I suspect that it might have been easier to follow if it was a book not an audio recording. I tend to listen when driving so I don't get the opportunity to stop and refer back. I am sure I only understood half of what was going on. My comprehension picked up towards the end so maybe better on second listening?

Overall, I have mixed feelings. So many things to admire but I was often found gasping with annoyance (asking myself, "what does that mean?") as well. Recommended if you feel like a challenging listen.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Teorgian
  • 22-02-2017

Poor, robotic narration

Would you try another book written by Yoon Ha Lee or narrated by Emily Woo Zeller?

I didn't think there was enough story here to justify a full-length novel, but I'd definitely check out Yoon Ha Lee's shorter fiction.

I would actively avoid other books by this narrator.

Has Ninefox Gambit put you off other books in this genre?

Military SF isn't quite my thing anyway. This hasn't put me off entirely, but it doesn't encourage me to explore further any time soon. It felt repetitive enough as it is.

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

No. I found her to be robotic and stilted in delivery, almost like she was reading this for the first time and never quite knew where it was going to go or what her inflection should be.

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

There was some interest in the relationship between the protagonist and the dead general inserted into her mind, but this was explored less than I would have expected.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • R. Maines
  • 26-07-2016

Go with the flow

The novel was initially hard going but once I wrapped my mind around the concept that maths and beliefs can distort reality, really started to get into the story.

Narration was good but had to drop it down to X1.5 playback speed to understand the narrator.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Lulwah
  • 27-11-2018

did not finish

couldn't understand anything. allowed down to 80%, listened to the first chapter multiple times. then i have to and how'd for the best with the following chapters but it just for worse. this book and me are not compatible.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Bob
  • 02-11-2018

Hard to get into but worth it

Yoon Ha Lee has written an engrossing story which on the surface is quite simple. Sci-fi wise anyway. No spoiler in saying that the concousness of a brilliant general is uploaded to a living soldier. There are conflicts both external and internal.

The difference here is that the interstellar empire relies on exotic technology based on a common and enforced calendar. The author drops us right in with no explanation. WTF! So some effort is required.

The narration is excellent and made this magi tech world easier to follow. The characteristics of each party are clear even when genders are deliberately confused. A boon to the listener.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • jesjaspers
  • 09-08-2018

American women narrators

what is it about American women narrators? Their voices are too high, their tone too sharp, their intonation appauling. After suffering it for 8 chsptets of and on I have gone fully over to reading the Kindle version instead

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • L
  • 02-05-2018

Mixed Feelings

In a lot of ways, this is a very good book. It's got really exciting, interesting concepts, and I loved the protagonists.

In other ways, not so much. By not explaining any of the rules of calendars, or how technology works, it feels both like: a) Lee is deliberately keeping information back for no reason other than to be obscure, and b) as if Lee is doing it so he doesn't have to live by any rules, and can make up whatever he likes. I like rules in my universes, even just a few, to give the world limits.

I really liked the narration, though, and may still listen to the second book. But not as essential a novel as the awards might make it out to be.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • James Koch
  • 04-02-2018

good

its slow and has hard to follow conepts but was a good story and tried alot of new things

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Dr Stephen P Lowis
  • 14-01-2018

Dull

I found it impossible to engage with this. A fragmented plot narrated with excessive intensity. Pointless.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • bishboria
  • 06-11-2017

Really not for me

Found the narration quite painful, and the story wasn't to my taste.

Couldn't finish this book

1 of 1 people found this review helpful