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Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch) Paperback – October 1, 2013

4.1 out of 5 stars 1,038 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Imperial Radch Series

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Editorial Reviews


"If you don't know the Ancillary series by now, you probably should. Ann Leckie's sociopolitical space opera almost singlehandedly breathed new cool into the stereotype of spaceships trundling through far-off systems amid laser battles. ... [Ancillary Mercy] earns the credit it's received: As a capstone to a series that shook genre expectations, as our closing installment of an immersively realized world, and as the poignant story of a ship that learned to sing."―NPR Books on Ancillary Mercy

"Powerful."―The New York Times on Ancillary Sword

"Unexpected, compelling and very cool. Ann Leckie nails it...I've never met a heroine like Breq before. I consider this a very good thing indeed."―John Scalzi

"Ancillary Justice is the mind-blowing space opera you've been needing...This is a novel that will thrill you like the page-turner it is, but stick with you for a long time afterward."―i09.com (included in 'This Fall's Must-Read Science Fiction and Fantasy Books')

"It's not every day a debut novel by an author you'd never heard of before derails your entire afternoon with its brilliance. But when my review copy of Ancillary Justice arrived, that's exactly what it did. In fact, it arrowed upward to reach a pretty high position on my list of best space opera novels ever."―Liz Bourke, Tor.com

"Establishes Leckie as an heir to Banks and Cherryh."―Elizabeth Bear

"A double-threaded narrative proves seductive, drawing the reader into the naive but determined protagonist's efforts to transform an unjust universe. Leckie uses...an expansionist galaxy-spinning empire [and] a protagonist on a single-minded quest for justice to transcend space-opera conventions in innovative ways. This impressive debut succeeds in making Breq a protagonist readers will invest in, and establishes Leckie as a talent to watch."―Publishers Weekly

"By turns thrilling, moving and awe-inspiring."―The Guardian

"Leckie does a very good job of setting this complex equation up... This is an altogether promising debut."―Kirkus

"Using the format of SF military adventure blended with hints of space opera, Leckie explores the expanded meaning of human nature and the uneasy balance between individuality and membership in a group identity. Leckie is a newcomer to watch as she expands on the history and future of her new and exciting universe."―Library Journal

"Leckie's debut gives casual and hardcore sci-fi fans alike a wonderful read."―RT Book Reviews

"A sharply written space opera with a richly imagined sense of detail and place, this debut novel from Ann Leckie works as both an evocative science fiction tale and an involving character study...it's also a strongly female-driven piece, tackling ideas about politics and gender in a way that's both engaging and provocative...Ancillary Justice is a gripping read that's well worth a look."―SFX (UK)

"It engages, it excites, and it challenges the way the reader views our world. Leckie may be a former Secretary of the Science Fiction Writers of America, but she's the President of this year's crop of debut novelists. Ancillary Justice might be the best science fiction novel of this very young decade."―Justin Landon Staffer's Book Review

"Total gamechanger. Get it, read it, wish to hell you'd written it. Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice may well be the most important book Orbit have published in ages."―Paul Graham Raven

"The sort of book that the Clarke Award wishes it had last year ... be prepared to see Ancillary Justice bandied around a lot come awards season. (As it should be)."―Jared Shurin Pornokitsch

About the Author

Ann Leckie has worked as a waitress, a receptionist, a rodman on a land-surveying crew, a lunch lady, and a recording engineer. The author of many published short stories, and former secretary of the Science Fiction Writers of America, she lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband, children, and cats.

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Product Details

  • Series: Imperial Radch (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; paperback / softback edition (October 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031624662X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316246620
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,038 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 1, 2013
Format: Paperback
There are echoes of C.J. Cherryh, Iain Banks, and Frank Herbert in Ancillary Justice. The novel is both familiar and fresh. The writing is powerful and tense. The plot -- about which I will say little, lest I risk spoiling it -- is intelligent and surprising.

The Radchaii are human but they consider themselves superior to other humans. The Lord of the Radch, Anaander Mianaai, controls Radch space with the help of thousands of genetically identical, linked bodies. Extra bodies seem handy (wish I had some) but they prove to have unforeseen consequences. The Radch rule by conquest, annexing other human worlds and forcing their inhabitants to join the Radch or to surrender their bodies to be used as ancillaries, otherwise known as corpse soldiers (an ancient practice that has been mostly abandoned). They justify their actions with the belief that they are imposing order and justice on the universe. They control annexed planets by coopting the privileged class, allowing them to retain their social status provided they embrace the Radch. The one exception is Garsedd, a planet the Radch destroyed because the Garseddai posed a threat the Radch could not tolerate.

The protagonist of Ancillary Justice, having been manufactured by the Radchaai, is sometimes a ship called Justice of Toren, sometimes an ancillary called One Esk, sometimes other ancillaries. As the novel begins, however, the protagonist is called Breq. All of those identities should be the same, but Justice of Toren/One Esk/Breq is having an identity crisis. No longer endowed with the abilities of an AI, Breq has the weaknesses of a human ... without quite being human. In the first pages, Breq saves a Radchaai named Seivarden (who once served on Justice of Toren) from hypothermia.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Ancillary Justice is nothing if not ambitious. The main character is the remainder of a self-aware starship capable of diffuse thought through dozens of reanimated human shells, the story takes place in parallel over two time periods, scenes sometimes switch between locations paragraph-to-paragraph, and the main society has very, um, different views on gender.

In the present timeline, she is Breq, to outsiders seemingly human. In the flashback timeline, she is Justice of Toren, a self-aware troop transport starship manned by human lieutenants and an army of reanimated human shells (called ancillaries, hence the title, or referred to derisively as corpse soldiers) that are also each her.

Leckie has created a world that allows her to play around with gender extensively. Not because she's created an escapist fantasy where inconvenient gender differences are ignored, but because she has used the possibilities of science fiction to change all the rules. The Radchaii don't have gendered pronouns (the narrative used female pronouns) and evidently, through advanced science, blur biological gender lines freely (and Breq remains thoroughly confused by the idea). But it's really language that Leckie is playing with, and it's the reader, not the characters, who is more effected. It would be hard to overemphasize how much of a mind-screw it is to not know the gender of characters. The mind keeps trying to shove characters into predetermined boxes, until finally it relents and admits it doesn't matter for the story Leckie is telling.

Ancillary Justice is firmly in the space opera sub-genre, with self-aware starships whose engines burn hotter than stars, invisible guns, and internally stored armor. There is an ice-covered planet and a swampy one.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was excited to download this novel, because based on the description it had everything I liked - high space opera, unique concepts, and big scope. I won't bore you by repeating the plot summary already provided for this book. It sounded like something different.

To some extent it was. One of the things that gets a lot of discussion is the gender neutrality of the book, and the use of the term "she" to describe everyone. It's different and interesting. And, given that Breq is a humanoid instantiation of the AI that ran the ship Justice of Toren, one would expect Breq to have a much different view of gender, and to place much less emphasis on it, than biological humans born into one gender or another. However, at some point the novelty wears off. We learn the gender of some characters, but not others. Why? There's no rhyme or reason as to why it's apparently important to know in certain instances but not in other instances. In addition, there is no reason why Breq wouldn't note the gender of another person to him/herself in the same manner that he/she would note the color of the walls, without ascribing any more significance than that to the fact.

However, the real flaw in this novel, and the reason why I gave it 2 stars instead of 4, is the pacing. This book is badly paced. Period. Act 1 takes up the first half of this book. And not a lot happens in Act 1. It's talky, and stuff happens, but for no apparent reason, and there is no narrative drive for anyone to do anything. "Languid" might be the most descriptive word for Act 1. Then a lot of stuff happens all at once. So I got excited, but then not a lot else happens for a while.
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