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Ninefox Gambit (Machineries of Empire Book 1)

3/5. A soldier is tasked with taking back a fortress, and to get the job done she is implanted with the consciousness of an infamous undead general, greatest tactician in history, heretic, murderer of his own people.

One of the cooler weird as fuck things I've read recently. This is a universe where power is defined by "math" – i.e. where civilizations create patterns of loyalty and ritual which, due to magic math, define the parameters of reality, down to what weapon's work, how FTL travel functions, what day it is, etc. Fighting with an insurgent rebellion is complicated when the rebellion redefines its own "calendar," meaning your realities only sort of talk to each other, and fighting back isn't just about violence (though lordy there is a lot of that) but about moving the complex variables.

So cool worldbuilding, though like you might expect, there's a lot of handwaving under the banner of math, and because the rules are so abstruse, it can occasionally feel like the book is cheating by dropping in some whackadoodle turn that you literally had no way of anticipating. But I mostly liked this for the main characters. They're sharing a head, and they argue a lot, and they fight a siege, and they also sit around and watch terrible romantic dramas with their robots while mutually attempting to outthink/mindfuck each other.

Ultimately I do think that the final 'redefine reality' turn of this book is far more prosaic and obvious than I wanted -- everyone else was basically expecting it, right? – and I didn't get the 'what!' mindfuck I was jonesing for. But Lee* is doing something really cool and unusual here, and I suspect that my genuine liking for this has the potential to turn into something much bigger as the trilogy unfolds.

*I did say my year of reading women could also be a year of not reading cis men.

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