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Publisher's Summary

A blockbuster, near-future science fiction thriller, S.L. Huang's Zero Sum Game introduces a math-genius mercenary who finds herself being manipulated by someone possessing unimaginable power....

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, and she'll take any job for the right price.  

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

Cas should run, like she usually does, but for once she's involved. There’s only one problem...  

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

©2018 S. L. Huang (P)2018 Macmillan Audio

What listeners say about Zero Sum Game

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

This book is spectacular! A true must-listen.

This story is driven by realistic characters (with powers) with an originality that's refreshing and thoroughly engaging, all wrapped up in a plot that won't quit. I read the self-published version and was still rapt by this fresh release. When listening to took me about 20 seconds to get over the characters having been different in my head, which hasn't happened in some quite famous books read by narrators who are excellent in other works, so I give a hearty recommendation both to new listeners and those who have read any edition of Zero Sum Game. It's thrilling, suspenseful, and great whether you want a cool near-future story to help get through your commute or a gritty, reality-based tale to stimulate your neurons. I don't know how the author manages that! But here it is. This is absolutely in my top 5 favorites of all time; I can't recommend it highly enough and can't wait to hear the next books in the series.

8 people found this helpful

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Absolutely fantastic

A non stop read with fantastic narration. Frothing at the mouth for book two! Comes out in 2019

4 people found this helpful

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Great promise. Wasted opportunity!

What a great premise: a bad-ass female anti-hero leveraging six-sigma math skills to increase her punch against bad guys in general and against a secret government program that has apparently run off the rails in specific. Throw in vague and shadowy hints that her own back-story may be deeply entangled in the physical/mind altering excesses of that same secret program and you have a great story potential.

But there is no story in this telling. Cas Russell is quick on-the-draw and lacking in self-reflection; if she shoots someone they must be bad and there must not have been any other way. The author, S.L. Huang, had the hand-crafted opportunity to bring a female perspective to what is essentially a male world-view story...but...the lack of female depth to this character adds no new dimension to this genre.

Great math skills can perhaps be utilized in creative ways but they do not cause well-aimed shots to miss, nor do they cancel out all the randomness that degrades the course of action she chooses. How would great math r-e-a-l-l-y be valuable?, we don't get it here.

And, most galling, the tradecraft that should be the stock-in-trade of any serious operator is totally missing. Announce a rendezvous in advance and not scout the scene before arriving? Exploit a young hacker's skills to track an adversary via hijacking video surveillance cameras and using facial recognition...but not guard against falling victim to the same tactic? Just two of many examples.

This book requires too much suspension-of-disbelief and does not provide enough genre improvement in return.
Unfortunately the narrator, Lauren Fortgang, is not up to the task of adding dimension to a one-size-fits-all character.

6 people found this helpful

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This book is a technical disaster.

Dreadful. I could only bear 30 minutes of this disaster of a "math" novel. If you have any education at all, this book will make you cringe at the "math" and calculations performed by the heroine. I can suspend disbelief with "powered" characters but this one - no, just no.

1 person found this helpful

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I was promised more math, but still a good story

I picked it up because I was promised a superheroine who used math to do incredible things, but the math is mostly just references to concepts. it is entirely possible to read this book with no math knowledge at all and still catch nearly everything. Still a fun listen though.

1 person found this helpful

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So Far, So Good

SL Huang introduces us to Cas(sandra) Russel in this first installment of a refreshing, unique and supremely entertaining SF work. The author brandishes her formidable mathematical skills and MIT pedigree through fulsome use of math lingo, but pulls it off without seeming elitist or slowing down the pace of the story when Cas swings into action. A deft touch and no small feat.

(On the other hand, some of Cas's self-discovery rumination seemed a bit too dramatic, drawn out and overdone. Here, less would have been more.)

I'm reading (not listening) to Null Set, the second installment, and have discovered some of the people, places and things of this series have come into a sharper focus. Lauren F did a very good job reading Zero Sum Game; it might just be that reading better integrates the multiple plot lines and distinctive characters that oppose, collide or align with Cas as she dishes out high-impact doses of Street Justice.

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Complex, Intelligent Heroine

Great first entry in a fast paced series featuring a complex heroine who is at once unpredictable and very human (a rare combo in action/sci-fi).

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Solid storytelling, quirky enough to stay fresh

Excellent storytelling, and gripping but with a little more room to breathe than some action thrillers (which was appreciated). The characters do get a chance to rest and think a bit between action scenes which doesn't drag, but actually helps the pacing. The protagonist isn't traditionally relatable, but I couldn't help but root for her to succeed and grow. Plenty of loose ends are left hanging to tease the sequel, yet the main story is complete enough to be reasonably satisfactory. I would totally recommend this book!

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    3 out of 5 stars

Good start, slow middle, ending is a letdown

The start was intense and action packed. The narration took the story to the next level. But around the middle, the pacing slowed. Apparently facing off against an antagonist you can’t actually fight is pretty boring. By the end, the narrator became wholly unreliable, so rather than an action-packed conclusion, we got the stream of consciousness ramble of a character who had no idea what was going on, and no clue how she escaped this life or death face off. Even the amazing narrator could not save this ending. I’m on the fence about whether to try another Cas adventure, but I’ll be looking for the narrator again.