Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"Revenant Gun"

A Korean-American sf/f writer who received a B.A. in math from Cornell University and an M.A. in math education from Stanford University, Yoon Ha Lee finds it a source of continual delight that math can be mined for story ideas.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Revenant Gun, and reported the following:
From page 69:
"I have no choice but to answer," Dhanneth said with a bitter edge.

Formation instinct. It would not do to belabor the realities of the situation, which Dhanneth surely understood better than he did. "All right," Jedao said. "What happened to the swarm's original general? The details, if you please."

Dhanneth's shoulders pulled back. "He resisted the hexarch. He's gone."


"He's dead," Dhanneth said in a scoured-out voice.

"Was he important to you?"

Dhanneth smiled humorlessly. "Not anymore."

Formation instinct again, or something more personal? Jedao didn't know how hard to press. He didn't want to alienate the man further. "Tell me something else, then," Jedao said. "The hexarch talked about successor states and despots and protector-generals in what's left of the hexarchate. What are they like? Are any of them honorable?"

"No," Dhanneth said with chilling conviction. "It's the same all over. Anyone could tell you that."

A quiet cold ran through Jedao's bones. It was a bad situation, but he might be able to talk himself through it if he treated it like a game.
This is, I think, pretty typical of the rest of the book. "Formation instinct" is sci-fi brainwashing that forces soldiers to obey their superiors. Jedao is leaning on it to question Dhanneth, his hostile aide, so he can find out more about the situation. The thing is, Jedao is the reincarnation of a notorious 400-year-old mass murderer and tactician, and he's expected to reconquer a nation sundered by civil war (the hexarchate)--but he has amnesia. He has no idea who to trust, and his boss--the hexarch--may get rid of him at any time if he fails to produce results, or to fall in line, as he's just discovered. Even worse, he may have the best of intentions, but he keeps tripping over his own history, including an over-fondness for games in a situation where the stakes aren't just his own survival, but the fate of the hexarchate.
Visit Yoon Ha Lee's website.

--Marshal Zeringue