- Book Review: Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee
Hexarchate Stories is a collection of stories from Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire (MoE) series of novels. The first thing I will need to warn you is if you have never read any of the previous books in the series there are a number of terms that will probably go far over your head. I had originally picked up this advanced reader copy (from Rebellion via Netgalley, thanks!) because I had heard of this author before and the short story format caught my eye. I’m happy to say that it met my expectations, and has made me want to read the rest of the series when I can.
The universe of the MoE series is firmly Sci-Fi, and from what I can gather rides a line between the more fantastical Sci-Fi and the much harder Sci-Fi from novels like The Three Body Problem. As this is a set of short stories you’ll get tidbits from different times and places in the MoE series, some focusing on what I can only assume are main characters from the series like the person(s) known as Jedao, to random small-time characters that seem to have been created exclusively for the short story. Each short story is followed by a short bit of writing by Lee, an interesting foil to the normal short story format that allowed me to get a better view of how he writes, as well as the thinking behind creating each of these unique stories. I found myself liking the very short stories or “flash fiction” that the Lee threw into the book. They didn’t have a lot of words on the page, but the stories themselves helped build a bit of the universe that everything else was set in.
The writing itself is relatively easy to follow, flows well, without too much prose and also without being too much to the point. You can get a feeling for the characters and the locations and things they interact with without being slapped in the face by the exact thread count of their uniforms or the exact distance they had to walk to get to their home that day. For me, this is the ideal style of writing, I like some detail, but sometimes prose gets to the point that it distracts from the story itself.
The biggest issue I think any new reader will find is that this is a completely unknown universe. The characters do include humans but the technology is unique to this universe, as are the factions and characters contained within. Once you get all the way through the collection you’ll find that you have come to understand a bit more of the universe, but without the full understanding of at least one of the main novels it’s nearly impossible to fully decipher what some things (such as then”moths”) are. One of the last stories in particular relates to a character’s exploits that are only hinted about in this collection as well as their connection to the aforementioned “moths.”
The best parts to me are by far the characters themselves. You can feel that these characters are all very well thought out, from their psyche to their individual behaviors you can tell that these characters have gone through some stuff, and it has changed who they were fundamentally. It’s probably the number one thing that makes me want to read the rest of the series. This series definitely down with the LGBTQ+ scene, as a number of characters in this stories are not hetero-normative and this universe seems to be one where the lack of heterosexuality is absolutely normal. This coupled with the fact that the characters themselves tend to be people of color make the stories a fresh departure from many contemporary Sci-Fi series.
If you’re a fan of fantastical science fiction, you’ll want to check this series out. This collection is awesome, but you really must read the books as I feel like this is not a great place to jump in as this book can and will spoil things from the main series. Also, this is not a novel or series for underage folks, there are very adult themes and situations including one very well-written erotic story that expands on a character’s internal behaviors and how the clashes with how they present themselves publicly.
I am definitely going to try to find and read the earlier books in this series, these short stories were a blast and I would recommend them to anyone out there who wants some good Sci-Fi. If you can handle some adult situations and very political machnications you might just like this series too. If you already know the series, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t love this collection.
5 stars out of 5!
Hexarchate Stories is being released June 25th, 2019 and will be available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other purveyors of rad books. If you want to support me and this blog, grab it here or down below. https://amzn.to/2IYmmyu