I was looking to see when Yoon Ha Lee’s follow-up to Ninefox Gambit was due and found a short story that she wrote called “Extracurricular Activity” that features one of the main characters in Ninefox Gambit, Shuos Jedao.
The events in Extracurricular Activity take places hundreds of years before Ninefox Gambit. For those that have not read the book he was frozen after a long and very successful career as an assassin and then as an innovative general, then he turned psycho. Here Jedao is a young officer still making a name for himself and he is assigned to capture a lost ship, and rescue the commander, an old friend, and the crew. He already has a growing reputation as being able to escape sure death and with a mission accomplished in his file. It really humanizes him. In Ninefox Gambit there are some flashbacks to his youth, but they are cut up because of the way that they are discovered. In them he is for the most part cold and distant. In Extracurricular Activities he has a great deal of self confidence, more humor and there is a strong sexual nature to the story as well.
Two things instantly stood out on reading the story. The bizarre weapons and tactics that are an important part of Ninefox Gambit are almost entirely absent. No turning people into pillars of salt of sheets of glass. No altering formations to become invulnerable to foes weapons. It reads as a good short adventure story. There are still oddities such as a nation that fights duels with custom pathogens.
The second issue is how much smoother the writing seemed to me. Without the odd features, which in truth are what made Ninefox Gambit unique, the story really flowed much better. It is also so much less complex, and I do not think I would enjoy an entire book written like this, but as a short story I think it works just fine. However I expect to the next book tohave a oddly complex plot with even more strange tactics.
The next installment is entitled “Raven Stratagem” and according to Amazon it is due to be available June 13, 2017 and it looks very interesting. However Extracurricular Activities is an easy entrance into the world of Ninefox.