Book Reviews

Review: Ruse by Cindy Pon

I have been looking forward to Ruse ever since I finished Want. Actually, if I’m being honest, probably a page into Want.


Jason Zhou, his friends, and Daiyu are still recovering from the aftermath of bombing Jin Corp headquarters. But Jin, the ruthless billionaire and Daiyu’s father, is out for blood. When Lingyi goes to Shanghai to help Jany Tsai, a childhood acquaintance in trouble, she doesn’t expect Jin to be involved. And when Jin has Jany murdered and steals the tech she had refused to sell him, Lingyi is the only one who has access to the encrypted info, putting her own life in jeopardy.

Zhou doesn’t hesitate to fly to China to help Iris find Lingyi, even though he’s been estranged from his friends for months. But when Iris tells him he can’t tell Daiyu or trust her, he balks. The reunited group play a treacherous cat and mouse game in the labyrinthine streets of Shanghai, determined on taking back what Jin had stolen.

When Daiyu appears in Shanghai, Zhou is uncertain if it’s to confront him or in support of her father. Jin has proudly announced Daiyu will be by his side for the opening ceremony of Jin Tower, his first “vertical city.” And as hard as Zhou and his friends fight, Jin always gains the upper hand. Is this a game they can survive, much less win?


(Disclaimer: I received this free book from Edelweiss. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

I fell immediately in love with Ruse for the exact same reasons I loved Want, and more. There was the same razor sharp look at climate change. Like with Want, Ruse goes beyond what what I associate with a dystopia, bringing a clarity to the injustice, a life to the culture, and a very keen look at resistance. It can feel like the world is against us. Like the rules, the system, and the power conspires to create a world where we cannot win. Where what ever we try, the house always wins. And Ruse picks up thee by stressing the necessity of action, of solidarity, friendship, and people’s ability to surprise us.

The Right Book

I’ve been struggling with exactly this problem this year – a feeling of powerlessness and hopelessness. Some days I look outside my window and wonder how can I possibly win? In a system where people of color aren’t getting promoted, where they can’t even get their foot in the door, and where the burn out is so high – how can I succeed? And having chosen to leave for some of those reasons has, in some ways, only made those feelings more acute. Like I couldn’t make this career sustainable for all these reasons. And it’s been a really hard year for me.

And then I read Ruse and I’m reminded why we have to still be the ones to fight. To resist. Why when we feel like it’s a fight up a hill, in the hail, with meager supplies, we can find comfort in each other. In our solidarity, our support, and our love. As long as we remain committed, we can achieve big and small goals alike.

World Building & Resistance

But back to the actual book review. Having such a clear picture of the injustice in Want, the added events of Ruse tip the balance. Enough is enough. And we have to stand up and resist. When we are beaten down, discouraged, and wondering, “why me?” Because we can. When we band together, we can. I mean I’m tearing up reminded of how powerful Ruse is to me. I mean I cried from this book, not only from grief or loss, but also in recognition. How I could see myself in the various characters. As they struggle with rage, with pain, with guilt.


And then you throw our precious characters in the middle of the fray. Dealing with loss, guilt, and trauma, our protagonists are tested to the very limits. Their relationships are called into question, and put through fire. But I loved Iris and Lingyi’s relationship (Lingyi is bi). I can’t pick a member of this crew I love the most. It’s too difficult a question. Not to mention there’s Jason and Ancrum’s friendship as well as Daiyu and Jason’s relationship.

Because we have to ask ourselves, can we trust Daiyu? What I loved about this relationship is how much it said about the story. Not only does Daiyu have to consider her father and daughter relationship with Jin. Through Daiyu and the rest of our crew, we have to really think about how we can enact change. Is it through radical action, potential collateral damage, or from within? Can you really try to change a corrupt and broken system from within? With enough money? Seeing Daiyu grapple with both of these was such a special part of Ruse for me.


In this way, Ruse is able to stretch across the pages and speak to you. To speak to a feeling I’m sure a lot of people have been feeling lately. This feeling of despair and a lack of hope, but also power in knowing we aren’t alone. That we can make a difference. And for this reason, Ruse reminds me of the power that books, and SF has. The ability to transport us to another setting, a different world, and still interact with our fears, our vulnerabilities, and inspire hope.

Find Ruse on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository. Also if you pre-order in the US from Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore you can get a special magnet AND it signed/personalized!

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