Yoon Ha Lee’s Hexarchate Stories is a collection of short stories set in the universe of Lee’s Machineries of Empire series, and, more specifically, mostly revolving around the life of everyone’s favourite mad general, Shuos Jedao. And it’s just now hitting me that the series is really, truly over.
A collection with many eyes
Hexarchate Stories is exactly what I wanted it to be: not a single lens on the universe but many—as many eyes to see through as the Shuos ninefox. The stories in the collection range from standalone shorts with plots to single pages’-worth slices of life. While I enjoyed the shorter tableaux, the fully-formed stories kept me turning the pages. (Novelette ‘Extracurricular Activities’ is a stand-out, previously published in 2017 at Tor.com, and finally telling us the tale of Jedao’s first inventive use of variable co-efficient lubricant.)
After the end
The collection ends with the novella ‘Glass Cannon’. It’s a story that reunites Cheris and the young Jedao of Revenant Gun following the events of the trilogy, and it is very much cast from the the same mould: full of ruthless fighting, body horror, and emotional introspection. Plus, in ‘Glass Cannon’, Lee takes the opportunity to explore more of the resurrected Jedao’s physical nature, which is something I’d wanted to know more about while reading Revenant Gun.
‘Glass Cannon’ makes the collection unmissable for a fan of the series. Without it, not only are Cheris and Jedao’s stories incomplete, but so is the story of the hexarchate in general. The implications it throws up—and yet only extrapolating from the events of Revenant Gun—are immense.
Each story in this collections is followed by an author’s note from Lee, exploring the circumstances around the writing of the story and other thoughts. These are the real gems in this collection, in my opinion—they elevate the collection from merely extra hexarchate content to a series of glimpses into the author’s process. Yoon Ha Lee’s notes are charming and easy to read, so are a pleasure to spend time with.
If there’s anything I wasn’t fond of while reading Hexarchate Stories, it’s possibly that Lee lets his characters spool out their inner thoughts a bit too freely, most noticeably during ‘Glass Cannon’. A hallmark of the Machineries of Empire series has been the rich interiority of all its perspective characters—but in this book I found myself getting irritated with Jedao’s running commentary on every nuance of every situation. (I know, I know—he’s Jedao, noticing things and snarkily commenting on them is his deal. Still.)
If you’re a fan of the Machineries of Empire series, you need to read this collection. Whether you prefer traditionally fanfic-like snippets of extra content or big space opera stories, you’ll find what you’re looking for in here. What’s more, you’ll miss Lee’s characters. No matter who your favourite was, you’re going to want more. And more? Is here.