Books

Books : reviews

S. L. Huang.
Zero Sum Game.
Huang. 2014

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 19 June 2015

Cas Russell is good at math. Scary good.

The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight. She can take any job far the right price and shoot anyone who gets in her way.

As far as she knows, she’s the only person around with a superpower … but then Cas discovers someone with a power even more dangerous than her own. Someone who can reach into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips. Someone intent on becoming the world’s puppet master.

Someone who’s already warped Cas’s thoughts once before, with her none the wiser.

Cas should run. Going up against a psychic with a god complex isn’t exactly a rational move, and saving the world from a power-hungry telepath isn’t her responsibility. But she isn’t about to let anyone get away with violating her brain – and besides, she’s got a small arsenal and same deadly mathematics on her side. There’s only one problem …

She doesn’t know which of her thoughts are her own anymore.

Cas Russell is a mathematical savant; she can do complex calculations in the blink of an eye, and more importantly, can integrate (no pun intended) the results with her own bodily movements: she can dodge bullets. And more.

She uses this ability in her fight and shoot her way out of problems she encounters doing her job: recovering lost items and people. And she has to keep busy, otherwise the calculations will drive her mad.

But her most recent job has gone wrong. She has been set up by the one person she trusts, and she doesn’t know why. Worse still, someone has been altering her memories and motivations: can she even trust herself any more?

This is rip-roaring excitement from page one, pure nerd wish fulfillment fantasy, with a side-helping of global conspiracy. Cas is wrong-footed, on the run, with all sides trying to take her out, and no guarantees who the good guys are. There’s lots of fights, lots of guns, and lots of vector calculus. (Although it was never made clear if all the Riemann zero calculations had any effect.) This particular plot is wrapped up, but events at the end clearly indicate there’s more to Cas than she knows. I’m looking forward to the next in the series. It’s out on Kindle, but I’m going to wait for the dead tree version.