First published in the United States by Greenwillow Books, 1994.
Dedication: "for Neil Gaiman"
Hexwood is the story of an intergalactic empire ruled by a quintumvirate - five rulers who call themselves the Reigners. In a small and seemingly unimportant world off in a corner, they left an old machine (the Bannus) under seal in an archival library (Hexwood Farm). The young, brash employee turned it on to play fantasy football league on it. The effects were much beyond what he reckoned. The manager for the part of the galaxy that includes Earth goes out to investigate, driven by fears of the almost-mythical servant of the five rulers, who enforces their decrees.
Ann, a young girl in the neighborhood of Hexwood Farm, observes people going in and no one coming out. She decides to investigate and is herself trapped. The Bannus is capturing everyone who enters and using them as actors in its plays, as it shuffles and retries every combination to get to the desired outcome. But what outcome is that -- a winning football game, a successful matchmaking, a child growing up to slay a dragon, or the overthrow of the five galactic overlords? The machine is mysterious, unpredictable. It could want any of those, or none... or all of them.
Fenric: 9/10 A very, very good book. Rather complicated and a little confusing for at least the first half, but well worth it by the end.