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Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch) Paperback – October 1, 2013
Attention Science Fiction Fans
Man vs. machine, humans vs. aliens, paranormal activities – discover the best of science fiction with these collectible books. Learn More.
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"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
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Ancillary Justice is sci-fi. The main character, Breq, was once Justice of Toren -- or rather, the artificial intelligence, or AI, that ran the Radchaai troop carrier Justice of Toren. Or part of it, anyway. In this world, the ship's AI is also implanted in all of the servants/slaves/troops on the ship. All of them know everything the ship knows, and the ship knows and sees everything each of its segments knows and sees. But the thing is that each segment was once human. The Radchaai captured them in their conquests of new worlds, put their bodies on ice, and now thaws them and connects them to the ship's AI when it needs a new segment. Only the officers aboard the ships are independent beings -- and even they are tied to a vast patronage system that leads to the Lord of the Radch, Anaander Minaai.
As the book opens, Breq stumbles across a former lieutenant of his in a place he should not be. Lieutenant Seivarden lost her -- um, his -- command a thousand years ago. For reasons Breq cannot explain to him/herself, he/she takes Seivarden under his/her wing. It's a problem because Breq's on a self-appointed mission to kill Anaander Minaai.
I'm vague about the genders because of a quirk in the Radchaai language. It does not differentiate between gender, and so Breq refers to everyone he/she meets as "she". It was an interesting stylistic choice for Leckie to make; it immediately makes it clear how alien the Radchaai are, but it makes the book somewhat tough going. I found myself assuming that every character was female, and I constantly had to work at keeping track of which character was what.
Despite that, I enjoyed the book. Leckie tackles some ticklish sociological questions in an interesting way, and I expect I'll continue reading the series to find out what happens next. Recommended.
Originally appeared at Rursday Reads.
But her single-sexed Radch only serve to confuse characterization. Literally - I found it hard to keep who's who straight. It may be that Breq is intended to be an unreliable narrator with respect to sex roles, I'm not clear on that, or it may be that Radch citizens *are* all female, but Radch in leadership roles *appear* male (because of how they behave) to others (a la (or should I say "au") Estraven in the Left Hand of Darkness). Since Leckie basically does nothing with the all female empire concept, it's less of a concept - more of a conceit.
Some (many?) SF authors have problems with time, seeking to combine space-age technology with Middle Ages style lack of progress, and we see that weakness here. Breq/Toren's 2000 year lifespan seems pretty surprising for what is basically a piece of tech, and the reasons for Seivarden's 1000 year "ice nap" are somewhat unclear, as is her/his importance to the narrative. Sure, it's a coincidence (as many reviewers have noted) that Breq meets her old (very old) comrade a the start of the book, but is it an important one? Since Breq possesses quasi-superhero powers and is not averse (having lived 20 centuries) to playing the long game, it seems that Breq could have snagged an audience with the Emperor without the social cachet of her long lost acquaintance. Perhaps Leckie is making a point about Breq's basic "programming", and her need to serve humans, but it's not a clear one.
When you think of what Le Guin did in Left Hand of Darkness with ONE IDEA, just one idea, which she used to craft a classic tale the like of which the world had never seen before, you see that this book could have been better and that the praise for it is overblown. And if it seems unfair to compare this to a classic, remember this - I'm just comparing Hugo 1970 with Hugo 2014. Hugos ain't what they used to be.