Land Of Confusion
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.