Ancillary Justiceby Ann Leckie
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.
Once, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking/b>/b>/i>
The only novel ever to win the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Awards and the first book in Ann Leckie's New York Times bestselling trilogy.
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.
Once, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.
Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.
In the Ancillary world: 1. Ancillary Justice2. Ancillary Sword3. Ancillary Mercy
Leckie's Ancillary Justice may well be the most important book Orbit have published in ages."
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
In the first of the Imperial Rdach trilogy, the protagonist is an artificial intelligence that went from controlling a starship and thousands of soldiers to controlling and inhabiting a single body. Winner of many awards, it is Leckie's first novel. (LJ 9/15/13)
In which a zombie imperialist space cop gets caught up in a complex plot to--well, this enjoyable sci-fi outing gets even more complicated than all that. Those who have seen the film Event Horizon will remember that a starship that got caught up in a time-space-continuum eddy got all, well, weird--or, as its creator puts it, "[w]hen she crossed over, she was just a ship. But when she came back--she was alive!" Debut novelist Leckie's premise dips into the same well, only her spaceship has become, over thousands of years, a sort-of human that is also a sort-of borg made up of interchangeable-parts-bearing dead people. Breq, aka One Esk, aka Justice of Toren, has his/her/its work cut out for him/her/it: There's a strange plot afoot in the far-flung Radch, and it's about to make Breq violate the prime directive, or whatever the Radchaai call the rule that says that multisegmented, ancillary humanoids are not supposed to shoot their masters, no matter how bad their masters might be. Leckie does a very good job of setting this complex equation up in not many pages, letting detail build on detail, as when Breq finds--well, let's say "herself" for the moment--in an increasingly tangled conspiracy that involves the baddest guy of all, the even more multifaceted head honcho of the Radch. As the action picks up, one just knows there's going to be some battering and bruising out on the shoulder of Orion. Leckie's novel cast of characters serves her well-plotted story nicely. This is an altogether promising debut.
Read an Excerpt
By Ann Leckie
OrbitCopyright © 2013 Ann Leckie
All rights reserved.
The body lay naked and facedown, a deathly gray, spatters of blood staining the snow around it. It was minus fifteen degrees Celsius and a storm had passed just hours before. The snow stretched smooth in the wan sunrise, only a few tracks leading into a nearby ice-block building. A tavern. Or what passed for a tavern in this town.
There was something itchingly familiar about that outthrown arm, the line from shoulder down to hip. But it was hardly possible I knew this person. I didn't know anyone here. This was the icy back end of a cold and isolated planet, as far from Radchaai ideas of civilization as it was possible to be. I was only here, on this planet, in this town, because I had urgent business of my own. Bodies in the street were none of my concern.
Sometimes I don't know why I do the things I do. Even after all this time it's still a new thing for me not to know, not to have orders to follow from one moment to the next. So I can't explain to you why I stopped and with one foot lifted the naked shoulder so I could see the person's face.
Frozen, bruised, and bloody as she was, I knew her. Her name was Seivarden Vendaai, and a long time ago she had been one of my officers, a young lieutenant, eventually promoted to her own command, another ship. I had thought her a thousand years dead, but she was, undeniably, here. I crouched down and felt for a pulse, for the faintest stir of breath.
Seivarden Vendaai was no concern of mine anymore, wasn't my responsibility. And she had never been one of my favorite officers. I had obeyed her orders, of course, and she had never abused any ancillaries, never harmed any of my segments (as the occasional officer did). I had no reason to think badly of her. On the contrary, her manners were those of an educated, well-bred person of good family. Not toward me, of course—I wasn't a person, I was a piece of equipment, a part of the ship. But I had never particularly cared for her.
I rose and went into the tavern. The place was dark, the white of the ice walls long since covered over with grime or worse. The air smelled of alcohol and vomit. A barkeep stood behind a high bench. She was a native—short and fat, pale and wide-eyed. Three patrons sprawled in seats at a dirty table. Despite the cold they wore only trousers and quilted shirts—it was spring in this hemisphere of Nilt and they were enjoying the warm spell. They pretended not to see me, though they had certainly noticed me in the street and knew what motivated my entrance. Likely one or more of them had been involved; Seivarden hadn't been out there long, or she'd have been dead.
"I'll rent a sledge," I said, "and buy a hypothermia kit."
Behind me one of the patrons chuckled and said, voice mocking, "Aren't you a tough little girl."
I turned to look at her, to study her face. She was taller than most Nilters, but fat and pale as any of them. She out-bulked me, but I was taller, and I was also considerably stronger than I looked. She didn't realize what she was playing with. She was probably male, to judge from the angular mazelike patterns quilting her shirt. I wasn't entirely certain. It wouldn't have mattered, if I had been in Radch space. Radchaai don't care much about gender, and the language they speak—my own first language—doesn't mark gender in any way. This language we were speaking now did, and I could make trouble for myself if I used the wrong forms. It didn't help that cues meant to distinguish gender changed from place to place, sometimes radically, and rarely made much sense to me.
I decided to say nothing. After a couple of seconds she suddenly found something interesting in the tabletop. I could have killed her, right there, without much effort. I found the idea attractive. But right now Seivarden was my first priority. I turned back to the barkeep.
Slouching negligently she said, as though there had been no interruption, "What kind of place you think this is?"
"The kind of place," I said, still safely in linguistic territory that needed no gender marking, "that will rent me a sledge and sell me a hypothermia kit. How much?"
"Two hundred shen." At least twice the going rate, I was sure. "For the sledge. Out back. You'll have to get it yourself. Another hundred for the kit."
"Complete," I said. "Not used."
She pulled one out from under the bench, and the seal looked undamaged. "Your buddy out there had a tab."
Maybe a lie. Maybe not. Either way the number would be pure fiction. "How much?"
"Three hundred fifty."
I could find a way to keep avoiding referring to the barkeep's gender. Or I could guess. It was, at worst, a fifty-fifty chance. "You're very trusting," I said, guessing male, "to let such an indigent"—I knew Seivarden was male, that one was easy—"run up such a debt." The barkeep said nothing. "Six hundred and fifty covers all of it?"
"Yeah," said the barkeep. "Pretty much."
"No, all of it. We will agree now. And if anyone comes after me later demanding more, or tries to rob me, they die."
Silence. Then the sound behind me of someone spitting. "Radchaai scum."
"I'm not Radchaai." Which was true. You have to be human to be Radchaai.
"He is," said the barkeep, with the smallest shrug toward the door. "You don't have the accent but you stink like Radchaai."
"That's the swill you serve your customers." Hoots from the patrons behind me. I reached into a pocket, pulled out a handful of chits, and tossed them on the bench. "Keep the change." I turned to leave.
"Your money better be good."
"Your sledge had better be out back where you said." And I left.
The hypothermia kit first. I rolled Seivarden over. Then I tore the seal on the kit, snapped an internal off the card, and pushed it into her bloody, half- frozen mouth. Once the indicator on the card showed green I unfolded the thin wrap, made sure of the charge, wound it around her, and switched it on. Then I went around back for the sledge.
No one was waiting for me, which was fortunate. I didn't want to leave bodies behind just yet, I hadn't come here to cause trouble. I towed the sledge around front, loaded Seivarden onto it, and considered taking my outer coat off and laying it on her, but in the end I decided it wouldn't be that much of an improvement over the hypothermia wrap alone. I powered up the sledge and was off.
I rented a room at the edge of town, one of a dozen two-meter cubes of grimy, gray-green prefab plastic. No bedding, and blankets cost extra, as did heat. I paid—I had already wasted a ridiculous amount of money bringing Seivarden out of the snow.
I cleaned the blood off her as best I could, checked her pulse (still there) and temperature (rising). Once I would have known her core temperature without even thinking, her heart rate, blood oxygen, hormone levels. I would have seen any and every injury merely by wishing it. Now I was blind. Clearly she'd been beaten—her face was swollen, her torso bruised.
The hypothermia kit came with a very basic corrective, but only one, and only suitable for first aid. Seivarden might have internal injuries or severe head trauma, and I was only capable of fixing cuts or sprains. With any luck, the cold and the bruises were all I had to deal with. But I didn't have much medical knowledge, not anymore. Any diagnosis I could make would be of the most basic sort.
I pushed another internal down her throat. Another check—her skin was no more chill than one would expect, considering, and she didn't seem clammy. Her color, given the bruises, was returning to a more normal brown. I brought in a container of snow to melt, set it in a corner where I hoped she wouldn't kick it over if she woke, and then went out, locking the door behind me.
The sun had risen higher in the sky, but the light was hardly any stronger. By now more tracks marred the even snow of last night's storm, and one or two Nilters were about. I hauled the sledge back to the tavern, parked it behind. No one accosted me, no sounds came from the dark doorway. I headed for the center of town.
People were abroad, doing business. Fat, pale children in trousers and quilted shirts kicked snow at each other, and then stopped and stared with large surprised-looking eyes when they saw me. The adults pretended I didn't exist, but their eyes turned toward me as they passed. I went into a shop, going from what passed for daylight here to dimness, into a chill just barely five degrees warmer than outside.
A dozen people stood around talking, but instant silence descended as soon as I entered. I realized that I had no expression on my face, and set my facial muscles to something pleasant and noncommittal.
"What do you want?" growled the shopkeeper.
"Surely these others are before me." Hoping as I spoke that it was a mixed- gender group, as my sentence indicated. I received only silence in response. "I would like four loaves of bread and a slab of fat. Also two hypothermia kits and two general-purpose correctives, if such a thing is available."
"I've got tens, twenties, and thirties."
She stacked my purchases on the counter. "Three hundred seventy-five." There was a cough from someone behind me—I was being overcharged again.
I paid and left. The children were still huddled, laughing, in the street. The adults still passed me as though I weren't there. I made one more stop—Seivarden would need clothes. Then I returned to the room.
Seivarden was still unconscious, and there were still no signs of shock as far as I could see. The snow in the container had mostly melted, and I put half of one brick-hard loaf of bread in it to soak.
A head injury and internal organ damage were the most dangerous possibilities. I broke open the two correctives I'd just bought and lifted the blanket to lay one across Seivarden's abdomen, watched it puddle and stretch and then harden into a clear shell. The other I held to the side of her face that seemed the most bruised. When that one had hardened, I took off my outer coat and lay down and slept.
Slightly more than seven and a half hours later, Seivarden stirred and I woke. "Are you awake?" I asked. The corrective I'd applied held one eye closed, and one half of her mouth, but the bruising and the swelling all over her face was much reduced. I considered for a moment what would be the right facial expression, and made it. "I found you in the snow, in front of a tavern. You looked like you needed help." She gave a faint rasp of breath but didn't turn her head toward me. "Are you hungry?" No answer, just a vacant stare. "Did you hit your head?"
"No," she said, quiet, her face relaxed and slack.
"Are you hungry?"
"When did you eat last?"
"I don't know." Her voice was calm, without inflection.
I pulled her upright and propped her against the gray-green wall, gingerly, not wanting to cause more injury, wary of her slumping over. She stayed sitting, so I slowly spooned some bread-and-water mush into her mouth, working cautiously around the corrective. "Swallow," I said, and she did. I gave her half of what was in the bowl that way and then I ate the rest myself, and brought in another pan of snow.
She watched me put another half-loaf of hard bread in the pan, but said nothing, her face still placid. "What's your name?" I asked. No answer.
She'd taken kef, I guessed. Most people will tell you that kef suppresses emotion, which it does, but that's not all it does. There was a time when I could have explained exactly what kef does, and how, but I'm not what I once was.
As far as I knew, people took kef so they could stop feeling something. Or because they believed that, emotions out of the way, supreme rationality would result, utter logic, true enlightenment. But it doesn't work that way.
Pulling Seivarden out of the snow had cost me time and money that I could ill afford, and for what? Left to her own devices she would find herself another hit or three of kef, and she would find her way into another place like that grimy tavern and get herself well and truly killed. If that was what she wanted I had no right to prevent her. But if she had wanted to die, why hadn't she done the thing cleanly, registered her intention and gone to the medic as anyone would? I didn't understand.
There was a good deal I didn't understand, and nineteen years pretending to be human hadn't taught me as much as I'd thought.CHAPTER 2
Nineteen years, three months, and one week before I found Seivarden in the snow, I was a troop carrier orbiting the planet Shis'urna. Troop carriers are the most massive of Radchaai ships, sixteen decks stacked one on top of the other. Command, Administrative, Medical, Hydroponics, Engineering, Central Access, and a deck for each decade, living and working space for my officers, whose every breath, every twitch of every muscle, was known to me.
Troop carriers rarely move. I sat, as I had sat for most of my two-thousand-year existence in one system or another, feeling the bitter chill of vacuum outside my hull, the planet Shis'urna like a blue-and-white glass counter, its orbiting station coming and going around, a steady stream of ships arriving, docking, undocking, departing toward one or the other of the buoy-and beacon-surrounded gates. From my vantage the boundaries of Shis'urna's various nations and territories weren't visible, though on its night side the planet's cities glowed bright here and there, and webs of roads between them, where they'd been restored since the annexation.
I felt and heard—though didn't always see—the presence of my companion ships—the smaller, faster Swords and Mercies, and most numerous at that time, the Justices, troop carriers like me. The oldest of us was nearly three thousand years old. We had known each other for a long time, and by now we had little to say to each other that had not already been said many times. We were, by and large, companionably silent, not counting routine communications.
As I still had ancillaries, I could be in more than one place at a time. I was also on detached duty in the city of Ors, on the planet Shis'urna, under the command of Esk Decade Lieutenant Awn.
Ors sat half on waterlogged land, half in marshy lake, the lakeward side built on slabs atop foundations sunk deep in the marsh mud. Green slime grew in the canals and joints between slabs, along the lower edges of building columns, on anything stationary the water reached, which varied with the season. The constant stink of hydrogen sulfide only cleared occasionally, when summer storms made the lakeward half of the city tremble and shudder and walkways were knee- deep in water blown in from beyond the barrier islands. Occasionally. Usually the storms made the smell worse. They turned the air temporarily cooler, but the relief generally lasted no more than a few days. Otherwise, it was always humid and hot.
I couldn't see Ors from orbit. It was more village than city, though it had once sat at the mouth of a river, and been the capital of a country that stretched along the coastline. Trade had come up and down the river, and flat-bottomed boats had plied the coastal marsh, bringing people from one town to the next. The river had shifted away over the centuries, and now Ors was half ruins. What had once been miles of rectangular islands within a grid of channels was now a much smaller place, surrounded by and interspersed with broken, half-sunken slabs, sometimes with roofs and pillars, that emerged from the muddy green water in the dry season. It had once been home to millions. Only 6,318 people had lived here when Radchaai forces annexed Shis'urna five years earlier, and of course the annexation had reduced that number. In Ors less than in some other places: as soon as we had appeared—myself in the form of my Esk cohorts along with their decade lieutenants lined up in the streets of the town, armed and armored—the head priest of Ikkt had approached the most senior officer present—Lieutenant Awn, as I said—and offered immediate surrender. The head priest had told her followers what they needed to do to survive the annexation, and for the most part those followers did indeed survive. This wasn't as common as one might think—we always made it clear from the beginning that even breathing trouble during an annexation could mean death, and from the instant an annexation began we made demonstrations of just what that meant widely available, but there was always someone who couldn't resist trying us.
Excerpted from Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. Copyright © 2013 Ann Leckie. Excerpted by permission of Orbit.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Ann Leckie has worked as a waitress, a receptionist, a rodman on a land-surveying crew, a lunch lady, and a recording engineer. The author of many published short stories, and former secretary of the Science Fiction Writers of America, she lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband, children, and cats.
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I'm not certain this will be the Hugo winner in 2014, but I feel confident in predicting that this will be one of the finalists. Leckie has crafted a gripping space opera story while updating the genre with modern SF sensibilities. She seamlessly integrates her flashback story structure with well-executed immersion into the universe of the Radcha. There's more than a few "We aren't in Kansas anymore" moments scattered throughout the novel which, rather than breaking that immersion, help add to the feeling of being in this place and time. Her treatment of gender and sexuality is both front and center, but never overbearing. This is partly accomplished by skimping on the physical descriptions of the characters, both primary and secondary, made possible by the unique viewpoint character. She also deftly handles the novel concept of that viewpoint character being, at times simultaneously, a single individual, a gestalt mind bridging 20 individual bodies, and a starship. The story is brought to a satisfying conclusion, but it's clear she has more to tell us about this person and this world; I look forward to seeing the remainder of the tale unfold.
I began reading this in fits and spurts, which is not the best way to start any book, but about a third of the way through I finally wrapped my head around who and what the main character was and really started enjoying it.
Peter f. Hamilton's commonwealth books are amazing. Dan Simmons Hyperion books were really good too. Vernor Vinge Deepness in the Sky omg. This.......... I dont get it. I've never disagreed with other reader's reviews before but this is not great writing.
It is no small feat that this is a novel narrated by a selfless AI who is also the most poignant personality. For me, books have flavors, superficial resonances that can usually be expressed verbally as “this books reminds me of FOO, but with BAR.” What Ann Leckie has accomplished in her debut novel is to give us a story that has all of the flavor markers and hallmarks of a classic C. J. Cherryh novel from the 1980’s, with the poignancy of a contemporary story. The novel is first and foremost a top notched space opera. But what has been fascinating for readers is that the language Leckie has chosen to use bring up questions of gender. This is certainly not the first book to talk to gender – even LeGuinn’s Left Hand of Darkness wasn’t the first genre book to go there. Leckie’s fresh approach, though, is in giving us a future society where gender is rendered equal not by neutering it, but by neutralizing it. By removing the bisect of male and female and using only the female gender to reference everything, the society of the Radch blurs the line. By submerging Breq, our AI product of Radch society, into other cultures, we begin to see the how arbitrary some attributes of gender are, and how much they can complicate what should otherwise be a simple worldview. One of the oldest tales is the tale of vengeance. What is justice, then, but vengeance wrought legal? But what if the system, the ruling mind that defines what is right and legal, is itself what has gone awry? Is the vengeance of ancillary component still justice? I am probably reading too much into this play of words between the title and the straightforward goal of Breq, but these are the kinds of thoughts you have when reading Ancillary Justice. Its really refreshing to find a book that satisfies both my simple interests (Space Opera with boom!) while still being thought provoking. And there was plenty of explosions and gun play. Just in case you were worried. Ancillary Justice was a wonderful read, and I look forward to more in this series.
Brilliant. But, flawed. Deserving of a Hugo and Nebula award for it's magnificent world building and uniqueness, but sometimes it just hurt my poor feeble brain trying to figure out what was going on. Like Alistair Reynolds' early books, I enjoyed my confusion. Hopefully, like Reynolds later books, she'll clue us lesser minds into what's going on. I'll keep reading her cause I'd rather be challenged than spoken down to.
Amazing novel. Concepts and views in a manner to keep you wanting more. The characters and subjects are expressed in way that allows you to feel their experiences. I have not read anything quite like it in a long time. I can see why this trilogy has won the highest honors in sciecnce fiction. After purchacing the first segment I immediately purchaced the rest of the trilogy.
I waited to pull the trigger on this book for quite a while, mostly due to some of the more negative or lukewarm reviews. I'm happy to say that I took the chance and got it. A lot of peoples' issues with it seem to be with the way sexual pronouns are used. For me, this was not an issue. It made things a bit confusing in the early going but is explained satisfactorily fairly soon and fits the story neatly. I read a couple reviews also complaining about the pace. I find this hard to understand. True, there isn't a lot of "action" through the first half or so of the book, but the story and the characters' backgrounds are built nicely and it moves along well, in my opinion. If you want a Star Wars book, read a Star Wars book. I have just purchased the second in the series, Ancillary Sword, and highly recommend this one.
I received a free early review copy of Ancillary Justice, and I'm so glad that happened! The description had sounded interesting, and it definitely turned out to be my type of book. Leckie creates just enough mystery surrounding One Esk and Justice of Toren to keep you interested, but there are enough flash backs to help answer those questions when the timing is right. There's no sense of "too much suspense" or "too many questions"; it's nicely balanced. There is a large span of time covered, but handled in such a way that you don't feel as though you have missed anything significant. I really liked Breq/One Esk as a heroine, and Sieverian grew on me over time. This world of 1000 year old starships and their ancillaries fascinates me - excited that book 2 is available for pre-order and can't wait for it to be released in the fall!
An utterly entertaining scifi novel, which does what scifi is supposed to do, provide the reader with a unique conception of a future society while challenging our own understanding of life. The philosophical question of self/identity, spread throughout the book is well done and of course the plot is fun. A new protagonist that sticks out among the crowd of tropes endemic in so many works. One of the best books all year, the only drawback is having to wait for more. Highly recommended.
I thought it impossible to find sci-fi book that is original. I was wrong, this book is. The book’s short description did not appeal to me at first. Berg is an ancillary, a “corps soldier”, a human body that is a part of the huge ship, controlled by and being a part of ship’s electronic brain. And then suddenly…she is not. The ship is a part of huge army that invades new planets eventually making them a part of the huge Radch Empire. But I got fascinated by the story after first few chapters and could not stop reading. One among many peculiar things is that Berg does not distinguish between genders and story is told in Berg voice. So I kept guessing the gender of main characters through the whole book. It was not annoying; it just added to book’s charm and my amusement. Book is amazing, it is a must read for all sci-fi fans.
A good read even if a little heady or strange with language and names. That didn't throw me. Want to read more now.
Interesting and enjoyable; very well-written. Narrated in first person, but the protagonist often describes her other ancillaries in third person. All characters are evidently female, although some are referred to as male in some of the story’s languages. The story is enjoyably cerebral, possibly because much narrative is interleaved within the dialogue, and the narrative is the protagonist’s thoughts, told in first person, without italics.
This is last year’s Hugo, Arthur C. Clarke, and Nebula winner. The publisher did not make it available in last year’s Hugo Award packet, so I have only now gotten around to reading it. “Ancillary” refers to a human being whose mind has been wiped out and replaced with an artificial intelligence by the Radch, a galactic empire. Normally, all the ancillaries are slaves of a massive artificial intelligence located on a starship, but Breq’s starship, Justice of Toren, was destroyed and she is on a quest for vengeance. Chapters alternate between the time before the starship was destroyed and nineteen years later. This is the first book in her Imperial Radch series. This book is difficult to read, because the author does not use any masculine pronouns, such as “he” or “his”, although the reader eventually deduces that there are male characters. I found this gimmick to be distracting and irritating and think that it detracted from this otherwise excellent story.
The premise was very original but it moved a bit slowly. I'll be reading the next book.
This is a multi-award winning novel, and it's easy to see why. Leckie does an amazing job of creating a far-flung future empire with deep cultural details. Her main character is a very cool kind of Pinocchio, a character who was previously an AI with control over hundreds of bodies simultaneously who, through events surrounding a similar kind of duplicitous conspiracy, has now been reduced to but a single body. The plot of the book involves politics that reflect our own, with two forces that appear the same from the outside (are in fact the very same person with multiple bodies herself) waging a silent war against each other. (Sounds like the parties within the U.S. government, doesn't it?) It's an intelligent read with lots of cool SF aspects and steady character development. My only big criticism is the pacing of this novel. There were times in the middle and latter half of the book that I wanted to give up on it. It just wasn't moving forward at a rewarding pace and at times felt bogged down in the details and traveling. (And now that I say that, perhaps that makes it Tolkien-esque, which could be a high compliment, I suppose.) A thoroughly developed, original book, but I sometimes found it challenging to stay invested in the story. 3.75 to 4 stars.
Though somewhat confusing at times, the author deftly crafts a vision of a future where the dominant human culture is politically correct to the extreme. Gender is not only ambiguous in clothing/make up/body enhancements, it is no longer differentiated in language. Government and military jobs are filled using an aptitude test that everyone accepts. But not everything is as it seems...
I strongly recommend reading Ancillary Justice. The book is well written and the plot keeps you guessing on what comes next so that you do not want to put the book down till you have finished reading it from end to end. as an added incentive, read the companion book Ancillary Sword. It continues off from Ancillary Justice and the story lives on. Reading one without reading them both does not complete the story.