Three reviews take Yoon Ha Lee’s recent NINEFOX GAMBIT to task for its conformity to Manichean, individualist, élitist, anti-democratic, violence-banalising space opera tropes. All three reviews are from a shadowy institution calling itself the “shadow” Clarkes. There is a noteworthy convergence of views in the three posts, condemning the novel for its lack of political relevance (read “correctness”).
This unanimity is rather amusing given that the reviewers are commenting on a novel based on the dangers of convergence (the calendrical system is a synchronous regime of convergence and consensus) and of the over-riding imperative of political correctness.
NINEFOX GAMBIT is itself in part a critique of the genre of space opera and of the sort of narcissistically satisfying identification with the hero that it may encourage. Until proven otherwise by the sequels it seems to favour dis-identification rather than identification.
The idea of the calendar and the calendrical regime is a very Stieglerian idea: power operates by synchronisation. This calendarity plus the hexarchate’s six “factions” is a way of highlighting the stereotyping often present in the genre and of displaying its political and military enforcement.
On the question of the privileged focus on certain individuals to the detriment of the mass of real people, it is true the forward movement of the plot is driven by a small number of individuals. However, these are presented as both belonging within the stereotypes and as exceptions in the sense of not fully corresponding to their official type. So complexity is present in the diversification of the stereotypes (seven factions are involved) and in the undermining of those stereotypes by showing their inability to prevent exceptions being generated.
Links to the reviews:
The three reviews condemn not just NINEFOX GAMBIT (a novel that I like a lot) but space opera in general as vicarious escapist power-fantasy representing, sublimating, and thus banalising, compassionless violence and legitimating it by means of its concentration on an individualistic quest for redemption on the backdrop of the perpetual reiteration of the war-machine. Real people are missing, only the actions, motivations, past history and personalities of the main characters count.
What is missing from this tableau is the element of speculation itself.