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Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch) Paperback – October 6, 2015
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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
"This trilogy will stand as a classic of sf for the ages."―Library Journal
"No science-fiction series as descriptive of our current political and cultural moment or as insistent that we open our eyes to it."― Slate
"A magnificent capstone to this promising trilogy."―RT Book Reviews (4.5 stars)
"Powerful."―The New York Times on Ancillary Sword
"The sort of space opera audiences have been waiting for."―NPR Books on Ancillary Sword
"Fans of space operas will feast on its richly textured, gorgeously rendered world-building."―Entertainment Weekly on Ancillary Sword
"Breq's struggle for meaningful justice in a society designed to favor the strong is as engaging as ever. Readers new to the author will be enthralled, and those familiar with the first book will find that the faith it inspired has not been misplaced."―Publishers Weekly on Ancillary Sword
"Leckie proves she's no mere flash in the pan with this follow-up to her multiple-award-winning debut space opera, Ancillary Justice."―Kirkus on Ancillary Sword
"This follow-up builds on the world and characters that the author introduced in the first book and takes the story in new directions. There is much more to explore in Leckie's universe, one of the most original in SF today."―Library Journal (starred review) on Ancillary Sword
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ANCILLARY SWORD, the second book in the series, seemed to indeed suffer from being the second book in a series, kind of a bridge between the introduction and set up of the story and what would presumably be the triumphant, climactic finish to the entire story. In my review of ANCILLARY SWORD, I called it more of a soap opera than a space opera, with all sorts family squabbles and intrigue, and in my mind not a lot happened.
Which brings us to ANCILLARY MERCY. A friend of mine commented something to the effect of "that's a lot of book for what happened in it". I think he hit it on the head. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. So, aside from the neat and interesting concepts introduced in the first book, the overarching storyline is that Breq, former Justice of Toren ancillary and now Fleet Captain of the Radch forces in the Atheok system, is out to destroy Anaander Mianaai, the Lord of the Radch. You see, there's a civil war going on in Radch space, but the thing is that the civil war is between at least two different instantiations (okay, the former software developer in me is coming out) of Anaander. Breq has been made Fleet Captain by one of those instantiations, but she is looking to go after the other instantiation. I do waffle a bit on how many there are, because Breq herself thinks there might be more than two, but that was never followed up on.
The contains familiar characters, as Lieutenant Seivarden and Tisarwat are back along for the ride. We have yet another Presger translator as well as an ancillary from another ship that has apparently remained hidden from the Radch empire for a very long time. Quite frankly, I still haven't quite discerned the purpose of the new ancillary, and the Presger translator seems, in general, to be there for increasingly annoying comic relief, constantly asking for fish and fish sauce (this tells you a lot if most of what I remember from the book is about the Presger translator). Then again, the translator does make a decision that will influence the future of the empire, but it is never followed up on.
And there is the final confrontation with Anaander Mianaai. I had been wondering for quite some time how the whole situation was going to be resolved, as there are numerous Anaanders on both sides of the civil war. The answer to that question is, in my mind, quite disappointing. Nothing much happens, really (other than a lot of tea drinking), and the solution to the problem doesn't seem to be much of a solution at all. It seems that the conflict should be one that is difficult to win, given the numbers involved. In the end, I'm not sure there was a winner or a loser.
There is a lot of high praise going around for ANCILLARY MERCY right now. I am afraid that I'm in the minority - I just don't see it. As I said to another of one of my friends recently, when he asked what I thought of it, "I wasn't moved". There was still a lot of family squabbling, still a lot of political maneuvering, but not a lot of interesting goings on. As I was disappointed in ANCILLARY SWORD, I was even more disappointed in ANCILLARY MERCY. While the book itself was well written, I'm not sure what it was written about. I'm left with an empty feeling that a lot more was promised, but not enough was delivered. It's not clear to me that if there is ever another book written in the Radch universe that I will pick it up and read it.
Breq, the former ancillary element of the Justice of Toren is now the captain of a warship sent by the Emperor she reviles to keep peace in a star system comfortably far away from the palace. Breq's still of the opinion she's not really a person, having had whoever she (and you'll recall "she" is the gender neutral pronoun for all civilized people in this series) erased completely when her mind was mapped to the ship she crewed, becoming a part of the ship's consciousness, and after its destruction, the last remnant. That doesn't stop her from being self-righteous, which would be a problematic if the author wasn't so firmly on her side.
Breq's not out to cause trouble, just to undo the rampant inequities in the society she's dropped into, and as captain, no Fleet Captain, her word carries a lot of weight. So do her songs.
Did I enjoy Ancillary Mercy. Yes, definitely. I miss the literary device that the first book's ancillary perspectives afforded, as well as the grittier person that Breq was at the beginning. Here she's mellowed and is growing into a more nurturing person, though still happy enough to kill any troops the emperor(s) send her way. The alien gun she's been toting since the first book is a bit of a cheat, and here it's largely used to avoid having to deal with actual space warfare. I'm not crying for the lack of corpusculating shields and beams of colossal energy, but still.
While the first book stood on its own merits, the following two seem more vehicles for societal chiding than good science fiction. Ultimately, Ms Leckie falls victim to both Rousseau's and Ian Bank's visions for our salvation, and as much as I'd like to believe in either, my faith falls short. She's no Le Guin, though Ancillary Justice came close.
So, I'm ambivalent. I've read it twice so far and its a good enough read. It's just not as smart as it thinks it is.
But you know, those songs, or song fragments, do kind of get stuck in your head.
"Oh tree, eat the fish."
(Note: I read this as an ARC, but I've bought the kindle version now that it's out)
Most recent customer reviews
Intriguing, great character interaction. Interesting and thought provoking cross sections of consciousness, individuality and companionship/working...Read more
Leckie has constructed a believable universe with interesting characters who drive the narrative.Provenance: A new novel set in the world of the Hugo, Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke Award-Winning ANCILLARY JUSTICE), which is also an excellent book.Read more