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Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch) Paperback – October 1, 2013
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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. The story then alternates between the present (Breq is tracking someone in order to obtain something ... more than that I won't reveal) and a past in which One Esk was serving the Radchaai, who had just used ruthless means to annex a planet called Shis'urna. The final element of the story is the Presger, a race of aliens who once made pests of themselves by dismantling Radch ships.
The novel's background is more intricate than I've sketched out here. It is initially confusing ... but initial confusion caused by complexity is better than boredom caused by pages of exposition. Everything falls into place well before the novel's midway point. Ann Leckie plays with gender and culture and religion in ways that are compelling but subtle. Her prose is robust.
The story builds upon a familiar moral struggle -- whether to follow unjust orders if the penalty for disobedience is death. If doing the right thing will have dire personal consequences, is it best to do the right thing only when it will make a difference? And how does one know whether doing the right will make a difference? These are difficult questions and Ancillary Justice brings them into sharp focus in different ways. More than one character, not all of them human, must make a choice of that nature. Ancillary Justice makes the point that virtue is easy to achieve in the abstract but easily vanishes when the lives of the "virtuous" are at stake. It makes the equally salient point that it is easy to judge when it isn't your life that is at stake. At the same time, this isn't a preachy novel. Leckie leaves it to the reader to draw whatever lessons might be taken from it. The blend of philosophy and adventure, the imaginative culture-building, and the strong characters all add up to an impressive work of science fiction.
The story follows a protagonist that is the final remaining aspect of a massive ship-based militaristic AI, confined to a human shell. While the ship was still "alive" and operational, these human shells with minds replaced by the AI were known as ancillaries, essentially tools of the ship to use in place of soldiers and other functionaries. The author handles the character with a consistency that is admirable as the story jumps back and forth in time to build up the back story while unveiling the main narrative as it progresses toward an intense climax.
At heart it's a story about revenge and an exploration of consciousness (human and AI alike)...but there is much more to it than just those two superficial elements. Redemption, colonialism, human nature, and war are all placed under the lens while the non-human protagonist pursues her/its objective. We, as readers, get introduced to a massive (gender-neutral, in which everyone is referred to by feminine pronouns) empire spanning numerous star systems, led by a tyrannical individual who has cloned herself into numerous ancillaries as well, to become a distributed consciousness spread across the galaxy...but within whom there is a fracture, and the leader is working against herself in subtle and not so subtle ways to undermine the opposing side. Just typing that was confusing, and it says a great deal about the quality of the author that it isn't disorienting within the book.
I have to read the rest of the series to know for sure, but based on this first novel of the trilogy, Leckie has certainly cemented herself as being one of the most original and talented minds recently working within the science fiction genre.
There is this whole dismantling of gender identification which is, although at first really off putting, ultimately a fascinating sort of experiment in forcing the reader to perceive the characters in a way they haven't before. I couldn't stop self reflecting on my difficulty getting past this; that made for an interesting reading experience for me.
Then there is the whole concept of Ancillaries and the main character recounting events from multiple POVs at once. Very cool.
And yet I never felt enveloped by any of it due to strangely bland and often cryptic internal monologues by the main character. A character who walks an inexplicably fine line between behaving like a machine intelligence and an emotionally charged and vengeful human: a concept in machine evolution that no effort was made to explain.
Add to this a truly interesting plot flawed by a climax in which nothing much happens (no real badassery, just the potential for it?) and I feel a bit spritzed on after this one... when every indication of the first 40% or so felt like it was going to be a tidal wave.
I understand why it has received the acclaim and recognition it did, I think this is her first book too. But it was a bit lightweight for me. Not much interested in reading the next one. Gonna go see if there's any more Alastair Reynolds I've missed :-)
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Take an old western movie- one of those where the protagonist was thought to be dead and is now coming back for...Read more