I picked up Zero Sum Game on the recommendation of Yoon Ha Lee, the author of Ninefox Gambit, and enjoyed the jaunt outside of my comfort zone. I don’t usually read spy/thriller novels but Lee’s recommendation was so compelling I couldn’t resist requesting an ARC.
Cas Russell is good at math. Scary good. The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight, and she’ll take any job for the right price.
As far as Cas knows, she’s the only person around with a superpower…until she discovers someone with a power even more dangerous than her own. Someone who can reach directly into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips. Someone intent on becoming the world’s puppet master.
Cas should run, like she usually does, but for once she’s involved. There’s only one problem…
She doesn’t know which of her thoughts are her own anymore.
Zero Sum Game is as much about the characters as it is about the sinister conspiracy plot to take over the world.
Our main character Cas is incredibly good at shooting things and math, but not so great at being any kind of normal person. For a contract fixer she’s absurdly naive and unprepared for what comes her way. Girl needs to learn to put up walls in new places, take down some existing walls and build some better coping mechanisms. It’s going to be a painful remodel.
Checker is my absolute fave, precious cinnamon roll. I loved that even though he’s a supporting character, he’s not sidelined completely and brings a lot to the table.
Rio was the character I struggled with the most. He’s written so mechanically, and if I didn’t know he was supposed to be a person, I’d have thought he was an AI. I really struggled with his motivation combined with his bland and flat personality. He didn’t feel fully fleshed out to me. More of a convenient escape hatch or roadblock when the plot called for it.
Arthur drove me nuts, but at least he was consistent. His motivations made sense and he’s an interesting, flawed character.
The plot does center a lot on Cas’s mathematical abilities and I’ll give S.L. Huang credit, as someone who doesn’t understand a lot of advanced mathematical concepts, I was able to follow the action in Zero Sum Game easily. The calculations Cas goes through added tension to the plot and helped move it along nicely.
Baked into the plot is a struggle about ethics and morality and the value of life. It was interesting watching the characters struggle with ethical dilemmas and try to choose between two wrong decisions.
So, the giveaway part. To enter to win a copy of Zero Sum Game of your very own, comment below with the best thing you’ve read in the last six months. The giveaway is open to the US only, sorry! Please make sure your email address is captured in your entry comment so I can contact the winner. The giveaway is open until Thursday, October 25 at noon PST.
Originally self published online, Zero Sum Game is out now from Tor.
Thank you to Tor books for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.