Ninefox Gambit: a disappointed review

by janedotx7

The basic premise is really thoughtful, and politically incisive. The universe is dominated by an empire known as the Hexarchate, which has achieved galactic domination by forcing everyone to use their calendar. I know this sounds unbelievably dorky and beside the point, but trust me, it’s actually brilliant. Within the novel’s universe, physics is affected by consensus, and so the idea is that different calendars enable different kinds of weaponry. Within the real world, the kind of cultural imperialism imposed by the Hexarchate is common, and necessary to expanding a colonialist empire. Not only do colonizers for realsies force everyone onto their calendar (I am still annoyed that January 1 is the beginning of the new year, and that the whole world doesn’t use the lunar calendar instead, since that actually tracks the seasons), they force the people they colonized to use the colonizer’s languages, and to elevate the artistic works that the colonizers consider canon. In the most extreme cases, colonizers perpetuate their culture by kidnapping the children of indigenous people, cleaving them from their ancestral culture, and turning them into vessels of the colonizers’ culture. It’s the most stomach-churning way a meme has of perpetuating itself.

Unfortunately, the book is terribly tedious. I have made more progress through The Brothers Karamazov in the past week than I have in the past year, mostly because reading five pages of this book is enough to make me want to read something, literally anything else, and I have nothing else on my Kindle that remains unread, and I’m too cheap to buy more books right now, and too squeamish to pirate something else.

If you’re the kind of person who likes hard sci-fi–like, say, if you’re a big fan of Ted Chiang–you’ll probably like this book, but if you prefer something with somewhat livelier characters–well, there’s a lot of good Russian novels out there.