Zero Sum Game

Zero Sum Game (Russell's Attic) - SL Huang

If all self published books were as tightly written and edited as Zero Sum Game, I’d fill my kindle with SPAs.


This was a great thriller with some very interesting characters.  The main protagonist, Cas Russell, is a mathematical genius in her 20s with some definite character flaws. Not cute flaws, but serious ones - an inability to understand or connect with most people and a very hyper sense of survival with ‘kill ‘em all’ being her first defense against anyone threatening her. 


Oh - that math genius bit? Very useful because she can see and factor vectors/trajectories/consequences of anything around her in a split second, and can use that knowledge to dodge or manipulate objects to avoid or mitigate the effects of, well, even bullets at time. Is it realistic? I have no idea, but it sounded reasonable, and since I totally suck at spatial anything, I bought it.  Seriously, any type of fight scene I mostly glaze over, whether swordplay, battles, space fighters, because I’m clueless when it comes to that sort of thing, so I just enjoyed the idea of someone able to factor all that intricate math to their advantage.


Getting the math out of the way, the characters in this book, and what they’re dealing with, were so well drawn. Cas is pretty damaged, and has done some fairly bad things, but she also felt like a real person-not all bad, and struggling to live the life she’s dealt. Her character growth throughout the book was interesting and compelling because it felt natural. She actually questioned decisions and emotions, and you could see her willingness to at least try other ways to deal with things as the book progressed and as she kept having to deal with, like, ya know, other people. I really loved Cas.


Rio is someone I don’t think I’ve ever run across in a book - maybe similar to Dexter, I guess, would be the closest. I had very mixed feelings about him, but in an odd sort of way, I got him, too, and I have an inkling there might be a bit more to him than we’re shown in this book.


This is a thriller, so there’s a big bad organization to fight, but again, like the characters, there’s shades of greyness to the organization as well.  Ok, not too many shades, they’re really close to charcoal, but still…this wasn’t a purely good vs evil. The plot moved along quickly and yet the writing stayed very focused. There was some great imagery, which made me pause ever so often and just enjoy.


What made this book so intriguing is that even the ending, which wrapped things up, wrapped things up in a rather loose bow with frazzled ends.  I mean, it was wrapped up properly, but the way it was done, and the repercussions of some of the choices that had to be made, made this all the more compelling because there were consequences - real consequences. There are teases of issues to come later in the series (This is book 1 of series Russell’s Attic) and I really can’t wait for the next book.  


Just a quick note - one of the places I lurk when I’m in a lurking mood is AbsoluteWrite.  I’m not a writer, and never will be a writer, but damn - I wish I could write because those people there are good.  Really good.  Scary smart, some of them, articulate (d’oh!) and so knowledgable about their craft. Whenever I run across posters whose posts I find interesting, or who seem to be very engaging and well spoken, I’ll check out their books. While I almost exclusively buy trade published books because I want someone else to do the vetting for me, I found this book in AW’s self published forum, which means I’m going to have to lurk there more to snatch up other treasures. The book description caught my attention, but the fact that it was professionally edited, and went through multiple passes with beta readers, and wasn’t just tossed up got me buying.