Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee confused me so much that I cannot even explain the cover of this book to you. Does it fit with the story? I don't know. I mean, the story takes place in space, so that part is accurate. But what is the spiky thing that dominates the image? I don't know.
As far as I can tell, Ninefox Gambit is set in a civilization that really likes order. There appears to be a massive mathematical algorithm (the "calendar") that oversees every tiny thing, especially in the military. Possibly people exist outside of the military, but it is hard to tell. There is also a very rigid caste system in place, with different groups of people going into different areas of study and conforming to very specific traits. The main character, Cheris, is in the military leading her team and somehow goes against the calendar. This means she's in trouble and she's given a very big, basically impossible task to go kill some heretics, for which she asks for help from this undead ghost who won every battle he ever fought, except he also turned traitor and got an obscene number of people killed.
There was a lot in this book that I did not understand. This book is like all my fears and feelings of intimidation about science fiction coming to fruition. Once I got to the end and things started moving a little faster and became more people-focused than calendar-focused (I still cannot grasp this calendar system, and it DRIVES ME CRAZY), I got more into it. And it certainly ends on a high note that bodes well for the series to follow. So I eventually got the high-level plot, but I could tell you nothing about the setting.
Midnight Robber, so I decided to give Sister Mine a go. Many of the same elements that I loved in Midnight Robber are present here - a strong cultural identity, humor, and fantastic female characters at the center. Sister Mine is often compared to American Gods or Anansi Gods because it is about a family of demigods. But whereas Neil Gaiman's book is almost entirely about men, Hopkinson's puts women very much at the center of the story. She plays with gender, sexuality, and many other themes while she wreaks havoc with the lives of both humans and gods.
I listened to Sister Mine on audio, and the narrator is excellent. I don't listen to many audiobooks any more, but I was pretty much instantly drawn into this one. I enjoyed many things about this story, but parts of it were just a bit too out there for me, particularly towards the end when things became very convoluted to me. I really liked many of the characters in this book, but with about two hours to go, I was just ready for the book to end. There were plot points that came up that didn't make a ton of sense to me or fit into the rest of the story, and then there was this whole section at the end that I was just... I don't know what was happening. I feel like maybe if I were reading a physical copy of the book instead of listening to an audiobook, it would have been easier for me to understand what was happening. Or maybe I'm just so confused by the real world that fantastical and science fiction worlds go too far for me. Regardless, this was a lighter book than Midnight Robber for sure, with humor and pretty great family dynamics. So if you want to give Hopkinson a try but don't want all the heavy stuff, this could be a good one to start with. But I wouldn't say it's as strong as Midnight Robber.