Sunday, February 22, 2015

Zero Sum Game

Title: Zero Sum Game
Author: SL Huang
Series: Russel's Attic, book 1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Published: 2014
Rating: 6/10

Review: I took a note of S.L. Huang in the fairy-tale anthology Retold that I read last month. Her story was one of my favorites, so I thought I'd give her novel a try. The premise sounded interesting: a mercenary with math superpower fighting a mind-controlling psychic.

So, I like math and I think math is cool and powerful and you can do a lot of different stuff with math. But this book pushed it well past the point of where I could accept it. There was one thing that bothered me in particular -- being able to do a crazy calculation about bullet velocity and direction is really not enough to dodge a bullet just because you know where it's going. I would have been much more accepting of a math super-power that also didn't turn into a physical super-power of precise motion and crazy strength. As it was, the heroine was pretty ridiculously overpowered and her constant math rationalizations for it made me rather annoyed.

The story itself was a pretty fun thriller type plot, which just kept escalating throughout the book. Drug cartels, mystery government organizations, hackers, and a psychopath with religion all figure into the plot that takes the main crew all around L.A. area. All-in-all, it was rather entertaining, if not entirely believable. I liked Arthur, the P.I. investigating a shadowy organization called Pithica who teams up with the heroine, Cas.

He has some serious reservations about Cas's moral compass and her murdering people left and right and I agree with that. I just wish he didn't eventually decide it wasn't that big a deal after all and strike a friendship. After all, by the end of the book Cas has probably murdered 4-dozen people as a very conservative estimate. Of course, they are all bad guys... Still, sometimes that much violence just doesn't sit well with me.

The other part of the book that could have been better is the writing. It's hard for me to put a finger on what exactly bothered me there, but I could easily tell it's a book by a new writer. I guess it just felt a little sloppy and under-edited.

All-in-all, it was entertaining, but I don't think I am going to pick up the next book in the series. Still, it's heartening to see books with female math ass-kicking superheroes.

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