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Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, 1) Paperback – October 1, 2013
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"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."―io9.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
"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
"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
About the Author
- Publisher : Orbit; Later Printing edition (October 1, 2013)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 031624662X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0316246620
- Item Weight : 12.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.25 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #17,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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I read about 20 sci fi books a year. I love a few, enjoy most and find virtually all of them worthwhile. Only once every few years do I encounter a book that is so bad that I can't finish it. I could not finish this one and it is easily the worst book that I've ever tried to read. I kept at it for days trying to find what the award people and four/five star reviewers enjoyed. I just went back and read a few dozen of the high reviews to see what I was missing with the idea that I'd start over and look harder for those positive attributes. Unfortunately, they mostly just say that it's a good story with good characters (neither of which I can understand) and many even say that it's good writing (which absolutely boggles my mind). So, I went ahead and read the 1* reviews and found virtually all of them to be spot-on. It is as indecipherable and boring as the 1* reviewers say. I have a pretty good imagination but can't even begin to fathom what the four and five star reviewers are referring to. I realize that this pretty much comes down to a "he said"/"she said" as to whether it's good or not but all I can do is tell you that I found it to be a brutal slog with not a single redeeming quality that I saw or could possibly anticipate. I highly recommend that you spend your money elsewhere. At a minimum, if you have a Kindle, get a sample first and know that it gets more dense and nonsensical as it goes, rather than less.
At first, this book is told in two plot threads that focus on the same character, a present timeline and a series of flashbacks. Although it's not always a format that works for me (I usually become more interested in one story over another) it worked here. In the present timeline the reader is trying to figure out what all Breq, the MC, is actually doing and why she's doing it, and that story is given to you in tidbits, via the past. So they worked in tandem very well.
I absolutely loved the world building, the different religions and gods, the quirks of Breq's character (she has a penchant for singing, humming, and learning new songs). There is an absolutely fascinating concept introduced here that I can honestly say I've only seen in about two other books, that is: one mind (whether human or AI) sharing multiple bodies. I can't expand on it without spoilers, but Leckie utilized the concept in a wonderful way and didn't waste it.
One of my only complaints, is that I cannot actually tell you the physical sex of a single character in this book. Breq tends to use "she" for everyone, as she repeatedly states that she is very bad at guessing the gender of anyone, and the Radch do not actually use gendered pronouns. Sometimes gender is revealed in her conversations with other people in languages that are not Radch, but honestly in my head I was picturing planets of Amazons. Looking back the only character that registered as male to me was incredibly minor and had no speaking lines.
Which brings me onto the characters themselves: I adored them. Breq is a clear favorite, and even as an AI she had more life to her than most fictional characters. Through the entire beginning of the book, I hated Seivarden, but she experiences a lot of character growth over the course of the book and by the end she was one of my favorites. Even though the plot was complex and I still don't entirely understand everything that happened, the characters and their relationships with each other was enough for me to keep reading.
I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys character driven space operas.
While the concepts that form the backbone of the story arc are thought provoking, the book as a whole is an effort to read, with a laboured style and a complete lack of momentum. This is the first science fiction novel (or novel in general) that I have had to force myself to keep reading in the hope it would get better... it didn't.
Top reviews from other countries
Although some people cannot seem to get their heads around it, it is actually an easy concept to grasp. A spaceship in this book has artificial intelligence, and to function properly it has people connected to it, so that it can carry out maintenance, send out scouts and assist with the everyday running of the vessel. These people are then like robots to a certain extent. These are people who have been ‘bridged’ with the AI, and so no longer have their own consciousness and are all connected, so what one knows or sees, theoretically all the other parts do.
This has the usual tropes you would expect, such as an evil empire as such, and the other elements, but there is certainly some fun here as our ancillary unit does have trouble communicating in languages that have gender specific pronouns, not sure if what she is going to say will cause offence. We only know really a few of the characters’ actual gender, which leaves us if we want to try and work out the other ones.
Taking in revenge and working on deeper levels, this does raise questions such as what is free will, and do we have it? And, also what happens when an ancillary unit is the last left of a ship, due to destruction, and what will it do, and other issues that can arise when humans become too interconnected with technology and possible unintended outcomes.
With flashbacks to the past, as well as the present time this novel is set, so we end up with something that is certainly worth reading and is exciting and enjoyable, with action and some derring-do.
On the whole, the book lived up to the premise. The main character stuck a nice balance between strange and relateable, sympathetic and ruthless. The ruling empire was painted in interesting shades of grey - bringing harmony and civilization to the planets it colonises while doing terrible things in the process.
There were two particularly interesting ideas. The first was the concept of ancilliaries. In short, the empire turns captured soldiers into willing collaborators by somehow possessing them with the minds of AIs. This was equal parts chilling and fascinating, though at times, I thought it could have been played with even more. The main character firmly identifies as Justice of Toren, the name of the spaceship it was the AI on. In flashbacks, it is shown to simultaneously being conscious of controlling the ship and in being in the bodies of all its hundreds of ancilliaries. And in the present, it definitely considers itself to be Justice of Toren, with no consideration given to whoever the body it is in originally was. While this is intriguing, I sometimes felt it could have been taken further. I never quite got a real sense of how the AIs sense of self functioned in the days when it was still spread across lots of people.
The second interesting idea was around gender and pronouns. The Radh (the colonists who created the main character) have no sense of gender and use one generic pronoun, which is translated as "she". It was unclear whether they are biologically unisex or have just abandoned all cultural constructs around gender. But the way the narrator referred to everyone (including those outside of the Radh, who had standard conceptions of gender) as "she" (despite the fact many of them turned out to be biologically male and identify that way) created a weird disconnect.
The plot and characters were less engaging than the world building and ideas, but still perfectly fine to keep you reading..
Overall, I found this a different and enjoyable read. I will probably read the sequel at some point, but don't feel in any rush to pick it up.
I liked the premise, didn't struggle with the use of the pronoun 'she' for all genders, and got used to the narrative switching back and forth between past and present. However, for me, this book has two major issues.
1. Not much happens. The narrative crawls painfully along. I understand books two and three are slower still.
2. I frequently had no idea what was going on. I don't expect to be spoon-fed, but by half-way through, I expected to understand a bit more about the background, hierarchies, cultural norms etc, but constantly felt as if I had either missed something (lots of things!) or had started the series part way through.
I have to conclude that this book is too clever by half for me and frankly, feels like too much hard work. It's a shame, I was excited to start this (hoping, perhaps for another Mary Doria Russell, who manages much better IMO to reward a reader's hard work with an absolute belter of a book - you can't go wrong with The Sparrow). I won't be reading anything further by this author.