Hexarchate Stories

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 02 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

I'm not one for short stories and some of these could barely be called that even, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed getting more stories from this universe. Actually, the only downside for me were the author's notes at the end of each short story. I know some people really like getting insight into the author's head and process, but I am not one of these people and I found that it just took me out of the fictional world and back into the real world. Boo. I did like the longer stories better, but I never felt like a story was too long or too short. The author definitely knew exactly what they wanted to do with each story and accomplished it with the right length for each thought. I appreciated that a lot.
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I knew starting this book that I was not its ideal reader, since the only work I had previously read by Yoon Ha Lee was his Conservation of Shadows collection and not the Machineries of Empire trilogy that this collection fills out. I was a fan of his other stories, and wanted to be able to offer a review for any readers without prior familiarity to the novels. Nevertheless, I found it mostly a very enjoyable collection.

As other reviewers have said, many of these stories are flash fiction that provide a glimpse of the world of the trilogy or the childhood of Jedao or Cheris. While I'm sure I would have been more invested in these stories had I already read the trilogy, I found them interesting exercises, and I appreciate the insight into these stories that the Author's Notes provide. As someone who has dabbled in writing SF stories, I found it useful to see how these stories sprang from challenges such as writing about birthdays or writing from the first-person point of view of a different character. 

Even without an understanding of the events of Revenant Gun, I still could not put down the book once I reached the novella "Glass Cannon," which amounts to nearly half of this collection. Though I was a little confused about some of its plot details, the inventiveness of the novella's worldbuilding and the propulsiveness of its prose kept me engaged. 

I will definitely be reading the Machineries of Empire series after this, and would not be surprised if I revisit this collection after I finish so that I can understand what I missed. While I do not think I would recommend starting with this collection like I did, I do think it was still enjoyable without having read the other three books first.

I would like to thank Solaris and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Hexarchate Stories is a collection of brief glimpses into the characters and worlds of the Machineries of Empire series. The stories read as an anthropological look into the everyday lives of this future society. It’s a great character study that examines a number of basic scenarios made entertaining thanks to Lee’s personable writing style.

A few highlights:

Omens gives a brief snapshot of two important cultural touchstones: architecture and theatre. Lee paints a vivid architectural picture of an epic theater done in a historical style. Coupled with  a tragedy centered on a love triangle, the story makes for a great insight into the artistic side of this world.

Silence is a quick family story, showing the interactions of a group of siblings at the dinner table. The story feels like a bit of anthropology, giving the reader insight into the daily lives of these characters. We get the sense of tense relations in a far off part of the world and of the toll war takes on young soldiers. 

Birthdays paints the concept of a birthday in a different light. We see the juxtaposition of society that celebrates the individual versus a society that assigns the same birthday to its citizens. I found it to be an interesting tidbit, something I hadn’t considered when thinking about the differences in worlds, societies, and their customs.

The Robot’s Math Lessons tells the story of a quirky robot who forms an unlikely bond with a young girl through a love of equations. I love the concept of a brilliant artificial intelligence purposely writing equations incorrectly as an inside joke. It highlights the human side of robots nicely.

On a final note, the greatest parts of the collection are the personal notes following each story. We get insights into how the stories relate to the series at large and how Lee’s own experiences tie into the narratives. It’s a deeply personal touch that shows Lee’s dedication to the material and its readers.

Review to be published on 8/13: http://reviewsandrobots.com/2019/08/13/hexarchate-stories-review-everyday-lives-of-the-future
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A year after the release of Raven Stratagem, it's time to go back to the world of reality-bending calendars and the military technologies they make possible! This collection is, as the title would suggest, entirely set in the Machineries of Empire world; stories range from "The Chameleon Gloves", set in the pre-Heptarchate era, before the system of factions became what it was, to "Glass Cannon", a direct sequel from Raven Stratagem which brings Shuos Jedao and Ajewan Cheris back in a fun and explosive way. Between these longer pieces (the post-trilogy story is a novella) is a whole bunch of flash fiction ranging from poetic worldbuilding exercises ("How the Andan Court") to cute sidelines about the clean-up of cat hair in space, ("Irriz the Assassin-Cat"), to more emotionally resonant moments, mainly involving Jedao, offering additional snapshots and the occasional "what-if" about the characters' inner lives.

While there's lots to love about the world of the Hexarchate and much of that is on display here - "The Robot's Math Lessons" a story about how young Cheris originally learns machine language and starts befriending robots is particularly endearing - this is a collection with Jedao at its centre, and those who don't find the character compelling are likely to find themselves skipping forward. Though I'm generally a fan of the lad (and was really impressed by the direction taken in "Raven Stratagem", I did get a bit sick of him during the sequence of flash pieces focusing on his human life; it was nice to reach "The Battle of Candle Arc" and the turning point around then, and things get a lot more varied at that point. Even if you're skipping through some of the flash fiction, however, Hexarchate Stories is worth picking up for its longer pieces alone: Hugo finalist heist "Extracurricular Activities" is here and still brilliant, and "Glass Cannon" is practically essential reading for anyone who enjoyed the novel trilogy, and forms an intriguing potential bridge to further Hexarchate adventures. Kudos also for the design and curation of this collection, which includes author notes after every story that help elaborate on the process and intention behind each piece. It'll only work if you've read the novels, but if you're following along, this is going to be a welcome addition to your Hexarchate experience.
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Yoon Ha Lee's new short story collection, Hexarchate Stories, is entirely made up of stories set in the universe of his Machineries of Empire trilogy, set at various points before and after the trilogy. (I really liked that the stories were in chronological order, with the first set before the foundation of the original heptarchate and the final one being a sequel to Revenant Gun.) Most of the stories had previously been published elsewhere, although I think the only one I'd read before was the novella 'Extracurricular Activities', which I very much enjoyed the first time round and was happy to re-read.

Many of the stories in the collection are very short, and seem to have originated as flash fiction on Lee's blog; there are scenes from both Jedao's and Cheris's childhoods and later lives, as well as a few vignettes of other characters. I thought some of them worked better than others; I really enjoyed the glimpses of Jedao as a child, seen from the perspective of his brother and sister, and also liked the vignettes of Cheris's childhood, but some of the other stories did less for me, in particular a couple which dealt with various characters visiting zoos. There was also one story, 'Gloves', which turned out to be just a very explicit sex scene and which I would quite honestly have preferred not to be reading on the bus.

Interspersed with the flash fiction are five longer pieces. 'The Chameleon's Gloves' is probably the most standalone story in the collection, a nicely-done heist story set in the days before the foundation of the heptarchate. 'Extracurricular Activities', which I'd read before, is about as close to an entertaining space romp as anything featuring Jedao could be. 'The Battle of Candle Arc' is also set during Jedao's first lifetime, showing him as a military commander in action, achieving one of his great victories while also wrestling with his moral discomfort at the regime he works for. 'Gamer's End' is set-post canon, and tells the story of a Shuos training exercise which may or may not be all it appears, and manages to pull of a second-person narration. And finally, the previously unpublished novella 'Glass Cannon' takes up the last 40% of the book. 'Glass Cannon' revisits Jedao and Cheris two years after the end of Revenant Gun; it moves both their characters on, resolves some of the threads that were left loose at the end of the trilogy, and also feels like it's setting things up for potential future adventures (or at least, I certainly hope it is, as the end is definitely a cliffhanger!). 

I wouldn't recommend this collection to anyone who hasn't read the Machineries of Empire trilogy; so many of the stories revisit characters and events from the trilogy that I think it would be hard to understand them without having read it, but as someone who's read and enjoyed it I really liked returning to that universe and getting to see a bit more of characters I'd liked and fill in some background. I also really enjoyed reading Lee's author's notes on each story, explaining a bit about the inspiration behind it and his writing process; I felt that they added a lot to even the shortest stories in the collection. 

(Thanks to Rebellion Publishing for a free review copy via NetGalley.)
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This is a fantastic collection of stories that will appeal to any fans of Yoon Ha Lee's Machineries of Empire trilogy. It serves to flesh out many of the characters who appear prominently in the main series, including Jedao and Cheris. Reading stories surrounding their childhood and upbringing is a pure joy, and definitely makes me want to reread the trilogy again. 

While most of the shorts have been published elsewhere previously, it's lovely to have these in one self-contained novel. I've never been a fan of having to hunt down links online, and there's a joy in having a companion novel sitting on the shelf alongside the primary works. 

That said, this collection is NOT a good introduction to the series if you've been waffling on whether to commit to Ninefox Gambit. This contains spoilers for the series, and is definitely supplementary as opposed to stand alone.
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Many of these stories are purely filler but I gave it four stars for the longer works, especially the new epilogue. I am not sure it was necessary though. The trilogy ended all be it not on the happiest of notes and this opened up a whole new realm of possibilities. Still, I am happier that everyone seems happier now. I also really liked seeing young Jedao and those are bittersweet considering what happens in the trilogy. Mostly, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the trilogy and wants more, but this book will be relatively meaningless to a new reader.
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An interesting collection of stories set around the authors' trilogy. This is definetely not the way to get aquainted with the Hexarchate universe, but a tasty meal for those, who loved the books. Most of the stories are set before events of the novel. Some are two-three pages that tell us about the past of Cheris and Jedao. The final - and the largest story, a novelette - takes place several years after the end of "Revenant Gun". 
I liked this collection, but can't say it's required reading.
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As soon as I saw there was a new book by Yoon Ha Lee, I jumped at the chance to read it. I loved the previous trilogy, even if the level of science-fiction at times meant I didn’t have a clue what was going on.

I hoped Hexarchate Stories would be more manageable, especially as it has been some time since I read the trilogy. Short stories of varying lengths meant it was easier to digest and it was fun connecting back to the characters.

I don’t think I can identify a favourite: there were a few that really grabbed me. The ones featuring Jedao when he was young – especially looking out for his little sister – were the most entertaining. They were light-hearted and featured a Jedao before he was a tortured, confused wreck of a man. I loved him as a character in the main trilogy, and this introduced a deeper level to him.

The final story was by far the longest as it returned to Cheris and Jedao and the next step in their adventure. Out of all of them, this was the one that threw me off the most because it referenced the trilogy heavily and I honestly can’t remember what happened or where things were left with those two. Their dynamic was great though and they’re both as devious as each other.

Each story has its own rhythm and feel. There’s a poem; there’s longer stories; there’s a visit to a brothel which was hilarious reading on a train; there’s childhood pranks; childhood nightmares; training scenarios… Pretty much every combination you can ask for and all are as enjoyable as the others.

The majority of the stories feature Jedao in some way, although his participation varies depending on the story. While that was fun, it was also enjoyable to connect to new characters, especially as different styles of writing were used to introduce them. You could tell there were some stories that were experiments as the style is different – and the author himself admits as much.

The stories themselves were thoroughly enjoyable. But perhaps just as entertaining were the author comments that went with each story. It gives us a small snap-shot into the author’s life and I loved them. The way he spoke: mentioned flash-fiction, using terms that I had only associated with fanfiction beforehand, just increase my respect of his work. He was so down-to-earth, which I know is silly because why should I expect anything else? But reading these parts were just as entertaining as reading the rest of the book.

If you enjoyed Ninefox Gambit, you’ll love this addition. I’m not certain you need to have read the trilogy either – yes, some details might not make sense, but you can still pick up on the atmosphere and the writing styles and enjoy the book as a collection of short stories on their own.

It was fairly quick to read and was light-hearted with some more serious undertones. A definite recommendation from me!
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Arc received in exchange for an honest review.

Check out my youtube review for my complete thoughts, tl'dr i'll say this is an absolute MUST READ for fans of the trilogy. I wasn't expecting this but the final story--a novella length sequence set 2 years after the end of Revenant Gun--actually raised my general feelings about that book. There is a lot to chew through in "Glass Cannon" which i know couldn't exist as a part of Revenant Gun, is also excruciatingly necessary for it to feel like a satisfactory end to this series.

For fans of the original trilogy.
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This collection was amazing, though I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who hasn’t already experienced the wonder of the Machineries of Empire trilogy. Without the background of the previous three books, a lot of the short stories in this collection may be confusing, and definitely would not be enjoyed to their fullest. Glass Cannon in particular follows on from Revenant Gun in such a way that I actually ended up reading it straight afterwards to remind myself of the events of the book (review to come), and only ended up half convincing myself to re-read the first two books as well. 

There is a fascinating variety of short stories included in this book, from delicate open-ended poetry (How the Andan Court) to action packed adventure-comedy (Extracurricular Activities); flash fiction that gives glimpses into some of the Machineries of Empire trilogy’s best characters (Hunting Trip) to entirely unexpected, but well-written erotica (Gloves). Gamer’s End even dips in to second person, and shows once and for all that Yoon Ha Lee is an incredible author, with pretty much boundless range. The author’s notes after each story are one of the highlights of the book, mentioning the inspiration for certain habits, characters or scenes; and providing fascinating insights into Yoon Ha Lee’s personality and past. 

The constant among the stories in this collection is the impeccable world building, gripping character development and diverse cultures and characters that fans of Yoon Ha Lee have come to expect. Almost every significant character from the Machineries of Empire trilogy has a moment to shine, with Jedao’s past being explored in the most detail. Cheris is not ignored, however, nor are various servitors and side characters from the series1, even Mikodez’s green onion gets a mention. 

Glass Cannon deserves its own mini review, because it is essentially the follow up to the Machineries of Empire trilogy, and it has made me incredibly sad that there probably won’t be any further novels, especially because the plot lines and complications introduced in Glass Cannon could easily become at least one more book. I want more! 

The plot is fast paced and interesting, with Jedao and Cheris’s viewpoints alternating throughout the novella. Some questions Revenant Gun left open are answered, other answers are implied or hinted at, and a lot of complications that I hadn’t considered are brought up. Cheris, Jedao and several other characters I’m not going to name to avoid spoilers interact in fascinating new ways, and we get to see Mikodez out of his depth for once. There are moments of levity, some fascinating, unique situations surrounding responsibility and morality, and one of the most classic science fiction questions of all: what makes us human? 

I was very glad when one of the (many) injustices left in place at the end of Revenant Gun causing people to hate Jedao (himself included) is cleared up a little in this book. He and Cheris don’t become friends, I think that would be too much to ask, but by the end of Glass Cannon, they seem to understand each other a little better. Glass Cannon is a satisfying, entertaining read, with plenty of angst, humour and action. In all, a great conclusion to the Machineries of Empire trilogy, I’m just sad that it has to end. 

I cannot recommend this book highly enough; Yoon Ha Lee is the author that made me give science fiction (LINK TO PROBLEM) a chance. Anyone who loves science fiction will definitely find plenty to enjoy in Hexarchate Stories, but I also believe that anyone who enjoys great characterisation and ethical dilemmas in the vein of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series will also find plenty to enjoy. Anyone who enjoyed the military drama of RF Kuang’s Poppy War should consider reading this series. People who enjoy the political intrigue and personal anguish of Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra series, those who loved the unique magic systems and morally grey world of Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders or Farseer novels and basically anyone with enough patience to immerse themselves in a nuanced and incredible world filled with fascinating characters should read this book, just make sure you read the Machineries of Empire trilogy first.
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Yoon Ha Lee’s Hexarchate Stories is a collection of short stories set in the universe of Lee’s Machineries of Empire series, and, more specifically, mostly revolving around the life of everyone’s favourite mad general, Shuos Jedao. And it’s just now hitting me that the series is really, truly over.

Hexarchate Stories is exactly what I wanted it to be: not a single lens on the universe but many—as many eyes to see through as the Shuos ninefox. The stories in the collection range from standalone shorts with plots to single pages’-worth slices of life. While I enjoyed the shorter tableaux, the fully-formed stories kept me turning the pages. (Novelette ‘Extracurricular Activities’ is a stand-out, previously published in 2017 at Tor.com, and finally telling us the tale of Jedao’s first inventive use of variable co-efficient lubricant.)

The collection ends with the novella ‘Glass Cannon’. It’s a story that reunites Cheris and the young Jedao of Revenant Gun following the events of the trilogy, and it is very much cast from the the same mould: full of ruthless fighting, body horror, and emotional introspection. Plus, in ‘Glass Cannon’, Lee takes the opportunity to explore more of the resurrected Jedao’s physical nature, which is something I’d wanted to know more about while reading Revenant Gun.

‘Glass Cannon’ makes the collection unmissable for a fan of the series. Without it, not only are Cheris and Jedao’s stories incomplete, but so is the story of the hexarchate in general. The implications it throws up—and yet only extrapolating from the events of Revenant Gun—are immense.

Each story in this collections is followed by an author’s note from Lee, exploring the circumstances around the writing of the story and other thoughts. These are the real gems in this collection, in my opinion—they elevate the collection from merely extra hexarchate content to a series of glimpses into the author’s process. Yoon Ha Lee’s notes are charming and easy to read, so are a pleasure to spend time with.

If there’s anything I wasn’t fond of while reading Hexarchate Stories, it’s possibly that Lee lets his characters spool out their inner thoughts a bit too freely, most noticeably during ‘Glass Cannon’. A hallmark of the Machineries of Empire series has been the rich interiority of all its perspective characters—but in this book I found myself getting irritated with Jedao’s running commentary on every nuance of every situation. (I know, I know—he’s Jedao, noticing things and snarkily commenting on them is his deal. Still.)

If you’re a fan of the Machineries of Empire series, you need to read this collection. Whether you prefer traditionally fanfic-like snippets of extra content or big space opera stories, you’ll find what you’re looking for in here. What’s more, you’ll miss Lee’s characters. No matter who your favourite was, you’re going to want more. And more? Is here.
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Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee is a collection of short stories set in the same world as the Machineries of Empire series (Ninefox Gambit, Raven Stratagem and Revenant Gun). Although not all the stories require familiarity with the main series, I generally recommend having read the series before picking up Hexarchate Stories since some of the flash pieces and especially the concluding novella work better with knowledge of the characters and series events. (Though many of the stories absolutely stand alone.)

The essential short story collection set in the universe of Ninefox Gambit.

An ex-Kel art thief has to save the world from a galaxy-shattering prototype weapon...

A general outnumbered eight-to-one must outsmart his opponent...

A renegade returns from seclusion to bury an old comrade...

From the incredible imagination of Hugo- and Arthur C. Clarke-nominated author Yoon Ha Lee comes a collection of stories set in the world of the best-selling Ninefox Gambit. Showcasing Lee’s extraordinary imagination, this collection takes you to the very beginnings of the hexarchate’s history and reveals new never-before-seen stories.

I really enjoyed this collection. Even given the slightly unusual way in which I read it; skipping over stories I had previously read meant I skipped some award worthy reads. (The reviews for those stories, by the way, are copied from my original reviews of them in italics below.) I was particularly taken with the three longer stories that were new to me: "The Chameleon's Gloves", "Gamer's End" and "Glass Cannon". The first two are meaty stories more about life in the universe than about the specific characters that featured in the series (although Jedao does appear in "Gamer's End"). "Glass Cannon" is a novella that takes place after the trilogy and, as such, is pretty spoiler-heavy for the events at the end of Raven Stratagem. Mostly because "Glass Cannon" dominates this collection in terms of page-count, my usual summing up is after the story mini-reviews (and after a spoiler shield).

“The Chameleon’s Gloves” — A fascinating story about a Kel outcast set before even the Heptarchate came into existence. And if that sentence made no sense, it’s a story about a thief given a job no one should have ever had to sign up for.

“How the Andan Court” — Flash/prose poem that I’ve read before: A flash piece that is more of a love letter explaining the absence of roses.

“Seven Views of the Liozh Entrance Exam” — Longer flash musing on Liozh examinations, told from a relative future perspective, after the faction had fallen.

“Omens” — A short story about a couple’s date, dripping with significance if you’re paying attention and have read the Hexarchate books.

“Honesty” — A short story about very young Jedao and his even younger sister.

“Bunny” — Another young Jedao and sister, this time dealing with a missing cat. A cute story.

“Black Squirrels” — A hilarious story of a Shuos academy prank.

“Silence” — A family interlude told from the point of view of Jedao’s older brother Rodao. A straightforwardly enjoyable read.

“Extracurricular Activities” — previously read: Set in the same universe as Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem, this story follows Jedao while he is still young. He goes on an undercover mission to extract a friend from academy. I really enjoyed this story. It was funny with serious moments. A good read for both readers of the novels and new comers to the world.

“Gloves” — Pretty much smut, with a bit of character exploration thrown in. I can’t imagine the framing details working very well for someone who hadn’t read the series.

“Hunting Trip” — A vignette featuring Jedao and a general stopping at a zoo en route to a hunting trip.

“The Battle of Candle Arc” — already read: Shuos Jedao leads a Kel army to victory against heretics. I had some memory of this particular battle being mentioned in the novels (Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem), but misremembered the context. In any case, an interesting read, even more so since it was published years before the novels. Clearly the authors has been living in this world for a long time. Also, the explanations of the factions and calendar were done particularly well, especially given how complicated they can get. This story is a good introduction to the world.

“Calendrical Rot” — Things get weird. Apparently this was almost the prologue to Ninefox Gambit, so it’s interesting to me that it works as a short story.

“Birthdays” — Young Cheris and her family move out of their ghetto and have to give up some of their traditions. A nicely told flash story.

“The Robot’s Math Lessons” — previously read: An adorable flash story about a robot making friends with a little girl (who I think is Cheris from Ninefox Gambit). — And yes, it was Cheris. This story is referenced in "Glass Cannon".

“Sword-Shopping” — Cheris and her girlfriend go to buy a sword. A cute flash piece.

“Persimmons” — A cute flash story about a servitor arrived at Kel Academy from a small village. Who doesn’t like sentient robot stories?

“Irriz the Assassin-Cat” — A cute flash featuring a cat soothing a child.

“Vacation” — Different characters take a trip to the zoo in this flash piece.

“Gamer’s End” — A second person short story about an advanced trainee sitting a test under Jedao. It’s one of the longer stories in this collection and is not so much filling in past anecdotes as telling a self-contained story set in the same world. And the second person narration adds some interesting flavour.

“Glass Cannon” — This is a novella (well and truly; it takes up the entire second half of Hexarchate Stories) set after Revenant Gun. It contains a lot of spoilers for the end of the Machineries of Empire series and I definitely don’t recommend reading it without having read the series. Not only will it be confusing, but it will also spoil some of the surprises and enjoyment of the series. In fact, a proper review of it is spoileriffic, so I will restrict it to my full review of Hexarchate Stories.

Full review with massive spoilers for Revenant Gun/Machineries of Empire. Do not hover over/highlight  the spoiler-shield below if you don't want to be spoiled.
“Glass Cannon” was an excellent read. Taking place after the end of Revenant Gun, it follows Moth!Jedao after he escapes imprisonment by the Shuos. His one desire in life is to get his memories back from Cheris and gain some sort of closure regarding the gaps in his memory, many of them from his youth. Cheri’s, meanwhile, is living a normal life in a settlement of her own ethnic group (much depleted after the events of the main series). She is just starting to get bored with a normal life teaching maths when that life gets disrupted by the escaped Jedao and the soldiers on his tale. Despite the inconvenience to her life, she agrees to transfer Original!Jedao’s memories to Moth!Jedao, since they have been haunting her. And so they set out on a quest to retrieve a device necessary for the transfer, and run into various troubles along the way.

Aside from being a really enjoyable story, “Glass Cannon” also manages to address some of the aspects of the world building that did not fit into the main series. Certain revelations from Revenant Gun — let’s say those loosely related to servitors and their factions and the human (non)regard of them — is raised here. So as well as following our beloved characters, we get to follow a little bit more progress in the Hexarchate, admittedly, not quite to completion, since that would be a much longer story.

I definitely recommend reading “Glass Cannon” as a sequel to the series if you enjoyed Machineries of Empire. I think Hexarchate Stories is worth buying for this novella alone, but the other included stories were also worth reading (but if you have already read the longer short stories/novelettes, the flash fiction may not feel weighty enough to bother buying the book for, but “Glass Cannon” certainly is).

This was a great collection, even if it was a little unbalanced in story lengths, and I definitely recommend it to fans of Yoon Ha Lee's books. While some of the stories are good entry points to the series, the majority of the flash stories work better if thought of adding something to the universe, rather than full stories in their own rights. For the prospective reader who wants to read Hexarchate Stories but not the trilogy (but why?), I see no reason why the first half of this collection can't be enjoyed, but I repeat my caution about "Glass Cannon" being full of spoilers and probably confusing without the trilogy context. On the other hand, if Lee plans to revisit the Hexarchate/Heptarchate universe again, sign me up for reading more stories/books set in that world.

5 / 5 stars

First published: June 2019, Solaris
Series: Machineries of Empire, stories set in the world of
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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I’ve been a huge fan of Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire series since it came out (and its also a Subjective Kind of Chaos nominee for Best Series!). It’s a complex tale of a cruel and also yet strangely liberal empire comprising sic different factions ranging from the loyal soldier army of the Kel to the super scheming Shuos. The trilogy explored themes of empire, rebellion and how people made the choices to choose a side. The main trilogy was very much focused on the notorious Shuos Jedao a general who went mad, died but then got resurrected as a mind AI ultimately working with a young Kel Captain named Cheris to eventually create a form of revolution with many personal costs for both.  However due to Jedao’s long afterlife it’s a sequence that has a long backstory of hundreds of years containing many rich elements galaxy-building to explore so I’m delighted to have now this collection of stories set before, during and after the events of the main trilogy. Its not all political space opera as we get a fantastic mix of heists, slice of life tales of love and families oh and cats.

Among the stories that I really enjoyed:

The Chameleon’s Gloves – a really strong opening tale that stands alone from the main series. It starts with an art theft but soon dives into a race to find a super-weapon. Really fast, inventive use of a heist and then throws a little moral dilemma into the equation.  I found this very enjoyable and yet still tells the reader about the worldview and ruthlessness of the Hexarchate rulers.

Seven Views of the Liozh Entrance Exam – the Liozh were the only faction that fell from grace.  An unusual tale of their entrance exams which while reads as a short history text it also hints as to why this group were eliminated which also shows you the way the empire thinks too.

Omens – This focuses on Jedao’s mother who pretty much liked to defy convention (a trait her son seemed to inherit). She’s funny, confident and secure in her sexuality on a date. There are major events happening, but a great piece of character writing done in a few scenes – impressive writing.

Honesty – This show focuses on a really young Jedao and his siblings Nidana and Ro all at a very young age. We get her view of her brother and we just start to see the potential for the future warrior he will become seeing him enjoying fighting some bullies; with a reminder that his future betrayal will have immense repercussions for his family and loved ones.  Feels very bittersweet as we see a strong simple and innocent relationship yet we know what’s around the corner.

Bunny – Jedao and Nidana hunt Bunny the cat (again as youngsters) funnily enough there is also Bunny the Dog. Again, a slice of life tail but perhaps reminding you there is a heart in Jedao…sometimes.

Silence - a first person tale in Ro’s voice. This time the siblings are much older and visiting their mother at home. A disgusting fruit salad is being made and there is a lot of family teasing.  Its a really impressive balance of showing a loving family against Jedao’s amoral approach to weapons and also starting to hint that his life in the military is starting to impact him mentally with regular injuries as well as seeing the cruelty of the hexarchate leading to ever more reckless choices. Again, showing you how he may end up becoming the later notorious general. One of the best tales int he collection.

Extracurricular Activities – Another great story here. An older Jedao who is now starting to get a fleet wide reputation for cunning and ruthlessness is recruited for a mission to rescue an old classmate. There is an interesting look at betrayal and again we see how Jedao’s mind works but you also definitely get to see his Shuos side shine too in cunning hand to hand combat mixed with the sense of honour towards his enemies (provided he thinks they are worthy).  It also contains excessive flirting with a shipmate that perhaps reminds you under the reputation Jedao can be amazingly human.

The Battle of Candle Arc – Here we meet a Jedao recovering from another of his many serious injuries. This time he’s been placed on a mission against heretics; we see him up against a distrusting first in command who is aware of his notorious ability to sacrifice those working for him to aid the greater good. This definitely points towards what leads him to his ultimate betrayal of the empire but also, we get to see that unique cunning balanced with a sense of honour again – trying to work out what makes Jedao tick is part of the fun in this collection.

Birthdays – This is a tale that features Cheris (the other main protagonist in the main trilogy). It’s a short tale of how her Mwennin people have had to stop celebrating their culture as its is increasingly deemed heretical which could lead to lethal repercussions. Knowing the ultimate faith these people will all suffer makes this tale feel extremely tragic but also as the author reminds us how cultural traditions often get wiped out by other cultures e.g. the Korean birthday system is now being slowly replaced with a more western one.

Gamer’s End – This is a tale set after the main trilogy ends. A young Shuos recruit goes on a training mission and then things go horribly wrong resulting in their need to fight for their life (as well as the rest of the planet). This tale is really interesting to see how the Hexarchate is now developing after the events within the main series but we also see the weird Shuos blend of cunning, cruelty, and ruthlessness. Yet a very familiar character appears who now knows we cannot go down the same road again in creating monsters to fight later.  Strong favourite in the collection

Glass Cannon – This final tale is a major novella giving us a huge insight into what happened next to Jedao and Cheris. I’m not going to spoil it because if you love this series you will want to go in unspoiled but it is very creative; answers a lot of questions; sets up a lot of new possibilities and oh goodness do I want to see what else happens next.  Yes, it’s my favourite tale and its brilliant

Overall as you’ll see my admiration for Yoon Ha Lee’s tales is undiminished. I really liked the short author’s note for each story and hearing what inspired each tale. The shorter length means this is more character focused adding depth and texture to the main sequence. Love the flash fiction pieces because seeing characters just living in normal situations and how they react in them is fascinating. If you’ve enjoyed the previous novels, you’ll want to delve again into this universe.
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You want this book

Yoon Ha Lee calls several of these stories "gimmick flash" stories. Gimmick flash stories are short and revolve around some specific idea (the gimmick). Mr. Lee explains that he makes money (or at least he used to) by writing them on demand for paying clients. Cool.

All the stories here fit directly into the Hexarchate universe but they occur at different times. Most are about Jadeo.

I liked some of them very much, and enjoyed the rest. For followers of Yoon Ha Lee, this collection is a must have.
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Review copy provided by publisher. Also I have known the author since Officially Forever, On Here.

I have rarely read a book with such a clearly defined audience! This is for people who love Yoon's debut trilogy (the Machineries of Empire trilogy, the one with Jedao in it) and have or enjoy a strong fanfic impulse.

What do I mean by "strong fanfic impulse": the range of tone in this material is very, very large, and how much it has traditional story structure varies extremely. The central novella that constitutes the bulk of this volume does indeed have a fairly traditional story nature, and so do a couple of the short stories, but others are of structures like "what if favorite character went home for a holiday" structures that are more like "outtakes" and other structures that fanfic explores more thoroughly.

So if you have that kind of impulse to see more range of structure and tone, this is definitely for you. I put off reading this volume, honestly, because I was not sure that I could deal with the levels of complexity, intensity, and darkness that Yoon sometimes brings to his fiction with the other things that were going on in my life at the time. And those are sometimes present, not going to lie about that. But the middle of the volume is definitely in the fluffier end of the range--there is no coffeeshop AU, but there is a lot more of the "this is a lighter moment" end of things, brief touches, small illuminations of a larger world.

I would not recommend starting this series in this point--it does rely fairly heavily on you having some notion of the characters and the setting. But for those who are invested, there is a range and a depth here that will likely be appealing.

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Yoon Ha Lee now has to be one the most prominent science fiction writers of our time and rarely does he let fans down. Hexarchate Stories is another stellar anthology of short novella length tales which, of course, suffer from the same issues that plague all of these ambitious collections: they each differ in quality. That said, each story is enjoyable but due to personal preference, every reader will find their own gems amongst these pages. Using the world created in his Machineries of Empire series, we are treated to original and fascinating sci-fi ideas and stories that are all thought-provoking with characters from the near-future who somehow remain relatable and human.

Most of the characters are from Lee's previous novels but it isn't necessary to have read those to enjoy these superb pieces of flash fiction. However, to gain the best experience I recommend reading MoE trilogy beforehand. I had a lot of fun reading through this and of course, the advantage to such concise snippets of story is that it's easy to dip in and out of perhaps on a lunch break or whilst commuting. It was fantastic to return to a world that has been built with such detail and care; one of the best sci-fi worlds ever built.

I particularly love the diversity in this collection and Lee certainly doesn't shy away from serious issues of sexual assault, gender identity, manipulation and PTSD, to name a few. Another nice touch is the author's notes at the end of each tale explaining his thought processes and how the characters have evolved. One of the most engaging and absorbing sci-fi anthologies I've read — So very entertaining and a must-read for Lee connoisseurs. Many thanks to Solaris for an ARC.
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I will preface this by saying that this story collection is not a good introduction to the world of the Hexarchate. Most of the stories presume the reader is already familiar with the world of Lee’s Machineries of Empire trilogy. Like all of the Hexarchate books, content warnings for depictions of violence, PTSD, body horror, and sexual violence and coercion apply. 

Most of the stories are very short pieces of flash-fiction. My ebook copy didn’t have page markers, but I’d be surprised if most of them are more than 5 or 10 pages each. The exceptions are the two novellas Extracurricular Activities (previously available as a stand alone novella) and Glass Cannon. 

The short stories that worked best for me were the ones covering characters we’d already gotten to know in the main trilogy. Stories like The Chameleon’s Gloves and Omens which center on completely new characters tended to feel a little cramped and rushed to me. The two novellas were what truly shined for me in this collection. Extracurricular Activities takes place before the events of the trilogy and describes a mission early in Jeado’s career. It’s more light-hearted and funny than I’m used to from the hept/hexarchate world. It also gives the background for an offhand joke in the third novel regarding variable coefficient lubricant. 

Glass Cannon takes place a few years after the events of Revenant Gun. I can’t really talk about it much without spoiling the entire trilogy, but I will say that it served as a fully satisfying way to bring many of the remaining threads together, while opening up several fascinating new avenues to explore. I do wish that the story had done a little more to address Charis’ reaction to Jedao’s actions as captain of the Revenant, since there’s a huge gap between the end of Revenant Gun and where they are in this story without any indication they’ve had any contact with each other in the interim. 

Aside from the stories themselves, I really enjoyed the author’s notes at the end of each story. I’m always a sucker for hearing authors talk about how they go about their craft, and having short, specific discussions of each story was both a bit of mental break between the stories, and an appealing glimpse behind the curtain.  

Overall, if you enjoyed The Machineries of Empire trilogy this is an excuse to go back and revisit one of the most fascinating SFF settings out there right now.
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Since this was my first time reading any of Yoon Ha Lee’s works, it took me a while to understand the world of his stories - even if I took an immediate liking to some of his characters, particularly Jedao and Cheris (who are key characters in Ninefox Gambit). Most of the stories are really short; little snippets with no proper plot that give you a glimpse of the characters’ lives probably outside the plot of Lee’s novel. Every story ends with an author’s note, of his musings behind writing the story. I especially enjoyed reading the longer story and the novella, both of which were placed at the end, because I could properly dive into the Hexarchate world without being pulled back out at the end of the short story after only managing to dip my toe in. Overall, Hexarchate Stories were quite fun to read, and the world building is fantastic. I have very limited exposure to space opera, but I think Lee’s works should be an essential read for the genre, especially given how diverse his characters are in terms of their sexuality and gender identities. Although, this anthology would be better appreciated by people who are already familiar with the world in Ninefox Gambit - I felt like I was missing out a lot in not having read the novel set in the Hexarchate World first before diving into these stories.
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Yoon Ha Lee's Hugo Award-nominated novels in the Machineries of Empire series have been some of my favorite science fiction novels in recent years. Lee has offered us a wealth of short stories set in this world on his website, and many of those stories in this volume are included here, along with the story that we know every fan of the series is here for, "Glass Cannon." Set several years after the end of Revenant Gun, Jedao starts piecing together his past and wants to recover his memories. Of course, the repository of quite a few of his memories is Cheris, who has been living a quiet life teaching children among the Mwennin. Needless to say, the Shuos are not really down with this plan, though Cheris is willing to help Jedao to divest herself of a bunch of complicated memories. But how will this be accomplished? And at what cost?

A variety of other stories are here, including some shorter ones that are dear to my heart, like "The Robot's Math Lessons," a favorite of mine that let me understand the long game in Raven Strategem, and the story of Irriz the Assassin-Cat who, in her harness and leash journeying about with Zehun, reminds me of a certain Catten.

While not the best entry point to Lee's work, this volume is a must-have for any fan of the Machineries series. The timeline at the start was very useful, and the author's notes about the stories lent insights to both Lee's thoughts and the development of some of the characters. 

Emily Woo Zeller's narration of the audiobook is wonderful as always.
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