the Little Red Reviewer

Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee

Posted on: June 28, 2020


Anyone else “save books for special occasions”?  Like, you’re going on vacation, or a long train ride, or you know you’ll be home recovering from a surgery, or something?

I bought Hexarchate Stories when it came out last summer, because I absolutely had to have it. When the order arrived, I gently put the book away, unopened, knowing I was saving it for a rainy day.

There was no specific rainy day in mind,  but I knew a day would come, when damnit, I just wanted to hang out with Cheris and Jedao and everyone else again. Yes, Sure, there was a good chance horrible things would happen to them (holy shit, did you read Revenant Gun??), but I wanted to see them again.


I’ve had plenty of favorite scifi/fantasy characters over the years, people who I can’t get enough of.  Locke Lamora. Vlad Taltos.  Mendoza (and Joseph, and Lewis).  and now Jedao firmly joins that list.

(yes, yes I do have a thing for orphans. i also have a thing for loyalty, heartbreak, long simmering anger that can happen in the same moment as the unexpected joy of a wonderful meal,  and that the journey is more important that the destination. )


So anyway, there is no rainy day, so specific occasion, all I have is all of this *waves handles wildly, implying everything *.    I needed some escapism, I needed some snark, and damnit I needed some Jedao.   And boy did Hexarchate Stories deliver in the best possibly way.   I meant to slowly read this, teasing it out? Yeah nope, read the whole thing in like 3 days,  then reread a few favorite stories. Will probably be rereading most of the book, because I can, and because it’s that good.


Hexarchate Stories is tons and tons of short stories, flash fiction, and a few longer stories from Jedao and Cheris’s youth.   Which means,  if you haven’t read Machineries of Empire trilogy, go read that first, otherwise most of these short stories aren’t going to make any sense to you.   About half of these stories were previously published online, and about half of them are original to this  collection. If you’d like a taste of what to expect, there’s links to some of these on Yoon Ha Lee’s website.


Remember how anguish-yand emotionally wrenching  Machineries of Empire was?  Good News,  the majority of the stories in Hexarchate Stories don’t have any of that!  Many of these are super short,  they are just moments in people’s lives, there is humor and snark and people just living their lives.  The stories are presented in mostly chronological order and there is a timeline at the beginning of the book. Lee gives Author’s Notes at the end of each story, just a few sentences maybe about something funny that inspired the story, or that it game from a flash fiction story prompt, or that it had plot holes that needed be fixed, etc.  By the way “chronological order” means we get plenty of stories of Jedao’s youth and him as a teenager, and some stories of Cheris’s youth.   Them as kids? omg YES PLEASE.

I am unbelievably jealous of Lee’s ability to take a 3 word flash fiction prompt, and turn it into an entire galaxy.  Flash fiction doesn’t usually work for me, because i can’t keep my stupid brain from saying “that’s it?” or “ok, what happens next?”.  But the flash pieces in Hexarchate Stories? You guessed, I loved every single one.     If I ever attempt to write flash fiction, these will be the stories I study, to figure out the magic behind how to do it.


No kidding, i’m going to be saying “i loved it!” about a hundred more times in this blog post, so let’s get started with some stories I loved that are Jedao and Cheris as kids. in “Honesty”,  we get Jedao and his brother and sister.  Jedao as a little kid, omg, squeee!  it’s like seeing a great dane puppy,  so goofy and floppy and innocent. He is such a good big brother, he wants to protect his little sister Nidana from everything. Let her get a little older before she learns what certain words mean.   And then I just about died laughing reading “Bunny”, because what did his sister name every pet in the house? Bunny.  Better find the cat before Nidana asks too many questions about what kind of magazines her older brothers have stashed away.  (There are two stories of Cheris as a little kid, and of course right now I can’t find them.  sorry)


“Extracurricular Activities” is a longer story, with a lot more going on.  Jedao’s mom seems to know way too much about his new assignment and she loves sending him really strange gifts from her small farm. The story has excellent dialog,  razor sharp characterization,  well-timed snark, and did I mention the excellent dialog? As he’s getting settled into his latest mission, he thinks back to some tests he had in school, where his class had to work as a group to figure a puzzle out and/or betray a classmate in the process. I love that even as a teen, Jedao realizes he’s not even close to being the most dangerous person in the room and that he should keep that thought to himself.  Back to the present, something I love about Jedao, and this entire series and world, is that just about everyone wants to flirt with Jedao, and he’s usually too professional (or surprised at the attention) to respond. And when he does respond?  It. Is. So. Fucking. Hot.


And speaking of unbelievably hot, the just-longer-than-flash story “Gloves”.  Jedao got what he needed, and so did I.  I’ll just leave that there.


“Gamer’s End” is a fun play on “Ender’s Game”, and I’ve always been a sucker for any story where even though the teacher told you the game is over, it’s really just begun.  This is a fun action romp, written in second person, which makes it feel like YOU are actually making the decisions, instead of some random character that maybe you don’t have a connection with.


The very last story, “Glass Cannon”, is a direct sequel to Revenant Gun.  Apparently I really need to reread Revenant Gun, because some of what was happening in “Glass Cannon” made sense to me, and other stuff that was happening was lost on me.  This is when I wish that I a)kept better hand written notes about spoilers while reading and b)kept those notes.


There are a zillion more short stories in this collection that I loved.


So Anyway,  if Yoon Ha Lee writes it, I’m gonna love it.  That’s it,  that’s the review.

4 Responses to "Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee"

Nope, not saving books for special occasions, unless you count buddy reads.

Liked by 1 person

I started this collection of stories a little while ago and like it so far. Bizarrely, I haven‘t read the main work yet. I guess I will have to pick it up eventually. I read somewhere that the last story in here is a spoiler for the series. Would you say that is true?


YES. the last story, “Glass Cannon” is a HUGE spoiler for the series. There are other spoilers here and there, how and when certain characters died, etc. But, if you like what you’re reading so far, pick up Ninefox Gambit (first book in the series) and give it a whirl.

Liked by 1 person

This book sounds super interesting!


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