Land Of Con­fu­sion

SFX - - Reviews -

One of the tra­di­tional pub­lish­ing routes for SF writ­ers is build­ing a rep­u­ta­tion with short fic­tion be­fore mov­ing onto nov­els. Korean-Amer­i­can writer Yoon Ha Lee is the lat­est ex­am­ple of this trend, fol­low­ing up an ac­claimed run of sto­ries with the first in a new space opera tril­ogy. Sadly his de­but novel never quite matches its con­cep­tual wild­ness with a com­pre­hen­si­ble nar­ra­tive.

The story fol­lows Cap­tain Kel Cheris, a dis­graced of­fi­cer in a far-fu­ture war be­ing fought across the galaxy via weaponised math­e­mat­ics. She’s given a chance to re­deem her­self by con­quer­ing the hereti­cal Fortress of the Scat­tered Nee­dles, but her plan in­volves be­ing men­tally con­nected to an un­dead tac­ti­cian who’s also a psy­chotic mass-mur­derer…

Lee has pulled off an un­usual spin on the tra­di­tional mil­i­tary SF sub­genre, one which show­cases an im­pres­sive imag­i­na­tion. Un­for­tu­nately, his ap­proach to world-build­ing is both frus­trat­ing and con­fus­ing, as the book avoids di­rect ex­po­si­tion to the ex­tent that the story’s cen­tral con­cepts are barely ex­plained at all. Com­bine this with fussy char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion, and what could have been a fas­ci­nat­ing SF novel has ended up as a colour­ful but be­fud­dling ex­pe­ri­ence. Saxon Bul­lock

Strictly speak­ing this isn’t Lee’s first novel. That was “ter­ri­ble Ninja Tur­tles fan­fic”, writ­ten aged 11/12.

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