Hexarchate Stories

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 2 Jul 2019

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Hexarchate Stories is an anthology of stories written by Yoon Ha Lee in his "Machineries of Empire" (Ninefox Gambit, Raven Stratagem, Revenant Gun) universe.  Most of the stories have been previously published, with the exception of three, with much of the previously published material being openly available on the web.  Most of these stories are tiny snippets of life in the universe of Lee's trilogy, featuring generally one of his two most prominent characters - Jedao or Cheris, and will be of little interest to anyone who isn't already very invested in the trilogy.  So if you're looking for an anthology full of stand-alone stories in this universe, you will be mostly disappointed.

There are five exceptions to this really, three of which were again already published and two of which are already award nominated (The Battle of Candle Arc and Extracurricular Activities), but the fourth is what fans of the trilogy will really be coming to this anthology for - a brand new novella named "Glass Cannon" that serves as a sequel to Revenant Gun.  It's a blast and will have any big fans of the trilogy eager for more (which I don't think is coming anytime soon, so don't get too excited!)

Spoilers for the trilogy after the Jump, so if you're still waiting on reading the books, don't read further:

I'm not going to bother with a plot summary for this anthology as it wouldn't really make sense.  Hexarchate Stories can basically be broken down into four categories of stories:

1.  Snippets, often as short as one page, about a faction or another in this world.  These are fine and usually amusing.

2.  Snippets, usually just a few pages long, about short times of life in the various characters of this world, usually dealing with Jedao or Cheris or people around them.  These range from cute stories about the time child Jedao was looking for his sister's cat only to find his brother's M-M porn and find attraction to one short almost full on pornographic snippet of an in-service Jedao visiting a sex worker who knows Jedao's tastes.  Again, they're generally fine and often cute but they're not really short stories that stand on their own at all. 

3.  Novelettes that are stand-alone stories in this universe: The Chameleon's Gloves, Extracurricular Activities, The Battle of Candle Arc, and Gamer's End.  I'd read all but The Chameleon's Gloves already (Candle Arc and Extracurricular activities are available for free online, the other two were first published in other anthologies, one of which I'd happened to have read).

  These are all very good and if you haven't had a chance to read them, getting another chance here is all for the better.  I have no idea how "Gamer's End" is supposed to work with the chronology, but honestly it doesn't matter for the story to work.  The other three stories feature one that shows how the Kel worked before becoming merely a faction of the Heptarchate and two that feature prominent battles/adventures of Jedao's life that were referenced in the main trilogy.

4.  Glass Cannon, the sequel novella to Revenant Gun.  Quick little summary: Jedao2 breaks out of The Citadel of Eyes and seeks out Cheris in order to try and regain his full memories, and he and Cheris wind up again on the run after she agrees to help.

  Obviously a lot more than that happens, with the novella (which takes up half of the anthologies page count) following up on one specific major plot thread from the last book - namely Jedao2's status as a mothlike-being and the sentience of the moths.  It's generally a strong novella, although this version of Cheris, after two years of living at peace in the Mwennin community, is a lot more passive and manipulative or even brilliant than I was used to, which didn't make too much sense to me.  Other than that flaw, the novella crescendos to a strong climax and ending that made me desperately want more - hell, it almost begs for a new trilogy.  Pretty sure we won't be getting one of those though alas.  Still Glass Cannon probably makes this anthology worth getting on its lonesome, at least for those who absolutely loved the trilogy.  If you didn't of course, this won't change your mind.
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Warning, the following review will contain heavy spoilers for the main trilogy and readers are highly recommended to read the main trilogy before reading this review or the discussed collection.

For fans of Yoon Ha Lee's The Machineries of the Empire trilogy, this short story collection is a must read. Featuring snippets of flash fiction that give insight into the Hexarchate's inner workings, small fluff bits describing Jedao Cheris' childhoods, one memorable 1K word fic on Jedao's uniform kink, and two Jedao-centric novellas "The Battle of Candle Arc" and "Glass Cannon", Hexarchate Stories works as an excellent accompaniment to supplement to main trilogy.

About half of these stories center around Jedao and his life pre-Black Cradle. We get short snippets of this childhood living on a goose farm and more insight in into his mother, younger sister, and older brother. We also get several shorts of his life during the Shuos Academy (with not enough Ruo) and his early military career. These shorts do a fantastic job painting Jedao as a tragic figure who never really got to mature past the age of 17 before vowing revenge on the Hexarchate for Ruo's death. As a reader who was fascinated by Jedao and wished we got to see more of his life, these stories more than satisfied me.

We also get a fair bit of Cheris's childhood, making friends servitors on the beach and "teaching" them math, then joining the Kel Academy. It's nice to see more of her childhood and her backstory, something I thought we didn't get quite enough of in the main series. I was hoping Mikodez would ge a short or two (maybe possibly even featuring Istradez), but alas, I supposed I can't have everything I want.

Many of the shorts in this series have been published online or in print prior to this publication, like "Battle of Candle Arc" and "Extracurricular Activities" and I have a faint recollection of reading several of the flash fiction stories on the author's website way back when. However, the last short "Glass Cannon" is a completely new piece that acts as a direct continuation of the main trilogy. I don't want to spoil anything, but for anyone who thought there wasn't nearly enough Jedao/Cheris interaction at the end of Revenant Gun, you will love this short. It also likely sets up for a brand new conflict and, if I'm reading the ending right, an entirely new series!

Overall, I rate this collection a 5/5. Machines of the Empire fans will adore this collection and for those that haven't started, you're surely missing out!

Review will be posted to my blog on 14 June 2019
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Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me come right out and say that this is definitely a book for uber-fans of the Machineries of Empire.

Most of the stories are little snippets or even flash-fiction giving us every-day glimpses of Jedao and Cheris either in the deep past or the in-between bits of the trilogy or -- my favorite part -- AFTER Revenant Gun.

Most of the stories are great for closing plot points and deepening the un-tortured figure of Jedao and are NOT action filled except for a few instances. I do not consider most of these stories to be complete in themselves, but they are definitely good for the fans. The author gives us neat notes about every story and how they relate to him as an author.

The one big story that blew me away happens to be the novella at the end, written new for this collection. "The Glass Cannon" was extraordinarily good.

It may only be conceived as a "what-if" following the events of the third novel, but MY GOD I would CHEER if I had a full series started up from this. :) It had everything. Funny, action-filled, mind-blowing SF ideas, and all the brilliance of the characters we're obsessed over doing fantastic new things.

Cheris, Jedao as *spoiler spoiler* and both of them taking on the whole galaxy with *spoiler* and *spoiler* in tow? HELL YES.

Please, please! Make it Happen!
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I'm pretty confident I would have enjoyed these a lot more had I read any of the Machineries of Empire series. Although, the stories stand on their own. This is an author with obvious talent. I didn't connect with these stories much, but I'll check out his other work since it's so highly praised.

I really appreciate the ARC for review!!
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Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee-A new story collection by the author of the Machineries of Empire trilogy. These Hexarchate stories center for the most part on Jedao, the infamous ghost general of the Machineries universe, and deliver small snippets of his formative years. A lot of very short character studies, and cultural development in flash fiction form. Also included are memorable novellas and novelettes "Extracurricular Activities", "The Chameleon's Gloves", The Battle of Candle Arc", and a long novella, never published before, "Glass Cannon". This last story takes place after the trilogy and is not to be missed. I don't usually care for story collections because they usually end up being a mixed bag, but here is the same author working within the same universe he has created and everything progresses nicely.
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Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire trilogy (Ninefox Gambit, Raven Stratagem and Revenant Gun) is one of the most mind blowing and original space opera series in years. In Hexarchate Stories, Lee revisits the main characters of those books (Shuos Jedao and Kel Cheris) and their universe in a series of short stories and a couple of novellas that work chronologically through his universe.

After a palate cleanser about a thief set in the ages before his main tale (“pre-calendar’), Lee moves to the story of how Shuos Jedao’s mother met his father (Jeado and his siblings all have different fathers). This is followed by a number of stories of Jedao as a child, a student and then a successful general answering hints that were scattered through the main novels. This series of tales ends with the famous Battle of Candle Arc, in which Jedao wins against a far superior force. Lee then jumps forward in time to give readers an unused prologue to Ninefox Gambit followed by stories of young Cheris in a similar vein. The collection is capped by a novella, a sequel of sorts to the series which brings the two characters together again (in a way) and potentially paves the way for more stories in a very different universe.

The most fascinating part of this collection is the series of author’s notes after each story. These give insights into Lee, his family and the influences on his works. The Battle of Candle Arc, for example, is based on a famous battle between the Koreans and the Japanese. While the Jedao story Black Squirrels is based stories from his college days and the Cheris tale The Robot’s Math Lessons on his discovery of the joys of mathematics in his youth. 

While some of the stories stand on their own, most of these are really only for fans of the existing series and its characters. Most are short pieces of flash fiction, written for various purposes explained by the author. What they reinforce is Lee’s sense of fun but also the humanity of his writing and his deep understanding of these characters and the world around them. Hexarchate Stories is a welcome and enjoyable addition to Lee’s Machineries of Empire universe.
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Fans of Lee will no doubt like this latest addition to her canon but coming in fresh like I did left huge gaps in my understanding.  There was a pages-long timeline of events from the universe these are set in that was too long and too terse to sink in.  I plunged ahead anyway, thinking I could pick up things in context (and hoping the stories would stand alone regardless).  

I found the inconsistent attempts to avoid gender pronouns annoying.  Using the plural "their" instead of "he" or "she" can be glossed over by the understanding reader but why mix "himself" or "herself" with it when discussing the same character?  And later use "she" instead of "their" for the same character?  I don't know if this poor usage originates with the author or the editor but it's distracting to the point of losing the stories' threads.  I want to stay immersed when reading.
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Hexarchate Stories is a collection of flash fiction, short stories, and novellas all set in the Machinaries of Empire world. Some before the trilogy (starting with Ninefox Gambit) and some after. You get a story of an ex-Kel before the Hexachate was formed, stories of Jedao's and Cheris' childhoods/family's and pre-book life, and the capstone of the whole series, a short story following up two years after the final book in the trilogy.

While Lee still captures the horrors and intensity of the original trilogy, this series explores many quieter and lighter moments. If you found yourself missing some humor in the original books, you'll find it in these short stories. And the authors notes after each one are a delightful insight into Lee's thoughts and worldbuilding. You may also find the Calendar explained in easier to understand words than it ever was in the first three books!

[What really capped it off for me was Glass Canon, the final novella which follows Cheris and Jedao post Revenant Gun in a thrilling, sometimes hilarious and often disturbing, adventure to give Jedao that was after RG all his memories back. I truly hope Lee decides to return to this world, because he certainly sets us up for another entire series in this novella!
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I'm happy I requested this book because I discovered a great writer and a wonderful new fantasy series.
I assume it's best to read the other books before but I truly enjoyed this one.
I look forward to reading the other books in this series.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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Short – sometimes very short indeed – stories, prose poems and other, unclassifiable things set in and around the Machineries of Empire trilogy. Familiar faces are here, not least Cheris, and of course plenty of Jedao. Not to mention Jedao's remarkable mother, who for saying she's a character in a queer, East Asian-inflected military SF trilogy, always makes me think of someone doing Sexy Wodehouse Aunt as an ill-advised Hallowe'en costume. Still, her most notorious offspring looms larger still, and for all that by the end of the series we knew him as much more than the undead bogeyman he first appeared, it's both unsettling and endearing to get glimpses of the future Immolation Fox in childhood. And then one of his grown-up appearances sees him star in what's pretty much a porn vignette, but a) I can't see any of the Machineries fans I know objecting and b) it does nicely close an arguable plot hole in the novels.

There are also, though, pieces going back before the Heptarchate was even founded, let alone became the Hexarchate, and one set after the novels. Even at trilogy-length Lee is far more oblique than the general run of space opera, and the shortest work here necessarily tends to be even more so. Sometimes this reaches the point where they're more glittering fragments than stories per se – it must have been fascinating encountering these enigmas in isolation first time around, aware that they contributed to a whole, but able only to glean tantalising hints of how that whole might look. Conversely, the last and longest story, Glass Cannon, was for me one of the least successful. Set after the novels, it explains more than is normally Lee's way, both in terms of simple exposition, and by crossing t's and dotting i's which for me had been left in just the most satisfying/tantalising stage of incompletion and implication as they were. But only compared to the very high standard Lee has established in the rest of the series can it be considered at all disappointing, and even here there's some glorious stuff, including one of the best portrayals I've seen of dealing with people who become a problem when they get hangry, and a few brilliant bits which work perfectly well in-world while doubling as affectionate in-jokes directed at the series' fans.

Also, I was pleased to see the collection going with the current trend whereby the author supplies endnotes to each story, which often shed as much light on Lee's own life as his work. For instance: "The hexarchate may be full of cockamamie Asians in space, but since I'm a Texan, some of those cockamamie Asians are cockamamie Asian Texans in space". Which certainly explains the jackalopes.

(Netgalley ARC)
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I had not read any of the authors previous works and having read this anthology that is mistake I intend to correct soonest, I think it would probably have helped to know the universe these stories are set in but that did not detract from the pleasure I got reading them, if you have read the previous books you will find this a great companion and if you are new to the author then it will invest a desire to read more in this wonderful universe
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