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Saturdays in Books

Reviews of speculative fiction, YA, middle grade, and graphic novels, along with stray thoughts, links, and pictures.

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The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent
Kathryn Morrow, James K. Morrow

Review: Zero Sum Game

Zero Sum Game (Russell's Attic) (Volume 1) - SL Huang

The short version is, I loved it. The long version to follow is that I can find a way to complain about anything, no matter how much I like it.


I should stop claiming to like urban fantasy, and maybe start instead asking for recommendations for female lead super-human splatterpunk thrillers. That is, after all, a specific subset of UF. And is certainly the subgenre of this book with it's violently applied math. 


This reminds me a great deal of Black Sun's Daughter. So much so that I kept waiting for the rich uncle to make an appearance,

though her not-friend may still turn out to be that equivalent in terms of "savior" / relative / creator.

(show spoiler)

It even falls into the same pitfalls. Cas Russell's personal journey towards learning to trust and befriend people is a thematic  examination of how society responds to powerful women by representing that society as entirely male. The few named female characters are all victims or evil. Never partners, or allies (unless they're slated to die as motivation). Obviously, the only other powerful woman is not just evil, but terrifyingly inhuman in her power. Also, like BSD, our heroine is never imperiled by the threat of rape. Refreshing, that.


I do so hope this series will vary from Hanover's by not so thoroughly integrating rape into the worldbuilding.


I don't mean to suggest Zero Sum Game is in any way derivative. Simply in a similar head space. One has magic and demons and the other psychics, guns, and grenades. Cas Russell and Jayne Heller are quite different characters who make quite different decisions, but both have been weaponized by some undefined part of their past. While Heller initially has no idea why she is so adept at violence, Russell is quite familiar with her own mathematical abilities as applied to murder and mayhem but doesn't spend time agonizing over why she is so different from everyone around her. Or thinking even a little about her past.


That is all to say, this book? This is the kind of thing I am very interested in reading more of. Aside from one scene where our heroine is inexplicably underestimating her own worth, and an occasional sentence that reads like it's only included to remind the reader of the word "math," the writing was quite engaging. Well plotted, well paced. Last night I read in bed until I couldn't hold my eyes open, and this morning I went back to it without even considering breakfast.