- Audible Audiobook
- Listening Length: 10 hours and 54 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Hachette Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: October 6, 2015
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English, English
- ASIN: B014JVK9IS
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Ancillary Mercy Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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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.
As I mentioned in my review of Ancillary Sword, that book had no conclusion. This book has no real beginning since it is simply a continuation of the story. Only, annoyingly, it keeps having the characters think about, or the author stuff in, bits of background in awkward places. Since you must have read Ancillary Sword to get anything out of this (and Ancillary Justice to have any reason for reading Ancillary Sword), then no one needs that background. And we don't need it twice, or sometimes even thrice.
This book has most of the same problems as its predecessor and none of the originality of Ancillary Justice. Basically it is a space-opera. Our golden hero fights its own internal (but minor) demons while saving the universe. The ship's crew goes around pretending to be ancillaries, which is an obvious attempt by the author to bring back some of the magic of the original novel. All it does is strip them of personality or character development. Since they are referred to by designations, this makes their position in obscurity assured.
The novel does have a conclusion, although unsatisfactory, unlike Ancillary Sword, so that's good.
Some novels weren't meant to have sequels.
With respect to the individual books (some spoilers ahead), Ancillary Justice is easily the star of the series. Simply in terms of ideas, I think you could argue that most of what Leckie is most interested in (identity, power, empire) is all contained in this book. The plot is tight, original, and suspenseful. Ancillary Sword is probably the weakest of the three, but I did not mind it as much as others did (the top reviews on Amazon, at least, are pretty brutal). Interestingly, while I liked Ancillary Mercy, I did not love it quite as much as others seemed to. Leckie rediscovers the action and deliberate-but-suspenseful pacing of the first book, as we have the return of Anaander as an active menace rather than just an abstract threat. The decision to give AIs the right and ability to determine their own destiny is an interesting and natural development from previous books (if Justice of Toren / Breq can be autonomous, why not other ships, and stations?) ... and the reactions of others to this development (ranging from anger to fear to amusement) are telling and important in a world where AIs, ancillaries, "people" like Anaander with multiple bodies, etc. make the line between human and non-human unclear and subjective. For me, however, the last couple of chapters were a little underwhelming and felt a bit rushed. Specifically, "defeating" Anaander by invoking the treaty with the Presger seemed like a bit of a cop-out ... and, by the end, Anaander acts more like a scared, spoiled child than a powerful and formidable empire-builder (I'm reminded of the old adage about a story being only as good as its villain--although, of course, the "system" is the true villain here ... Anaander is simply its creator and curator). In general, the role of the Presger throughout the series was problematic for me, from the out-sized role played by the Presger gun, the absurdity of the translator (which serves an important role by pointing out the arbitrariness of many of the social and political institutions of the Radch empire, but at times devolves more into--dare I say it--Jar Jar Binks territory), and then finally the treaty which acts almost as a deus ex machina solution to the "Anaander problem". I feel like Leckie could've been just as effective by leaving the Presger out of it, and just focusing on the newfound agency of the AIs. The final chapter was a little anticlimactic as well, as we get into the "sausage making" of creating a new paradigm, without (apparently) any concern of further outside interference. It also felt like Leckie was trying to lay the foundation for future spinoffs from this trilogy ... is this really the end? We get to say good bye to a cast of memorable and likable characters ... but is this goodbye forever?
That said, the good guys won, unresolved plot lines were tied up, much tea was drunk, so it was still an enjoyable finale--I just didn't *love* the ending, and overall felt like this book didn't quite have the same power as the first. Overall, however, this was a great series, and I look forward to seeing what Leckie comes up with next!