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Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, Bk 1)
Ancillary Justice - Imperial Radch, Bk 1
Author: Ann Leckie
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren--a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. ...  more »
ISBN-13: 9780316246620
ISBN-10: 031624662X
Publication Date: 10/1/2013
Pages: 416
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

4 stars, based on 33 ratings
Publisher: Orbit
Book Type: Paperback
Members Wishing: 10
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

SteveTheDM avatar reviewed Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, Bk 1) on + 204 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
I'm familiar with Ann Leckie due to her work on the Podcast "Escape Pod", where she's been an editor for quite a long while. So I was excited when this book popped up on numerous "looks good" lists, and strove to pick up a copy.

This was a fascinating book. It's got new ideas in abundance (at any rate, new ideas *to me*), and is extremely well written. The protagonist here is (one of) a large number of AI-in-a-human-body workhorses that are all part of larger AI that runs a starship. Oh, and they all share the same consciousness. It's a brainship, sort of, it's emotional computers, sort of, and it's got oodles of answers to the question, "How do you write a first-person story when your narrator is everywhere?"

It's also got an evil society at war with itself, sort of. It's got gender non-obviousness, sort of. It's got all this juxtaposed, subtly, with other cultures which we might consider more "normal".

This is a fantastic piece of work. And this is a debut novel.

Why did I not give it five stars? I think it's because I tend to give 5 stars to books with strong characterization where I think I could be (or at least wish to be) the narrator. And that's not true here, so I didn't react as strongly as I would to other five star books.

4.5 of 5 stars.
maura853 avatar reviewed Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, Bk 1) on + 542 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
My second reading ... and once again, I am very impressed by the author's detailed and delicate world-building, but this time (perhaps not quite so dazzled by the imaginative pyrotechnics) a little underwhelmed by the lack of a strong, clear subtext to it all. To steal shamelessly from Gertrude Stein, I didn't come away with a sense that there is any "there, there" ...

I should, first and foremost, say that I loved this, and I'm looking forward to reading the sequels. And, perhaps, having done the heavy lifting of world-building and situation-setting, just perhaps future volumes will free Leckie to do more with the world she has built, and the situation she has set up. Leckie is to be complimented for giving this novel a satisfying, self-contained plot, and not resorting to that cheapest of cheap tricks, the "who didn't see that coming?" cliffhanger.

Perhaps future volumes will be able to do more with Why should we care?, and Why does this matter?, having so vividly established the world and the challenging social hierarchy that face the former ancillary Breq and the aristocrat-fallen-on-hard-times Seivarden. Both are, in their different ways, very satisfyingly fish out of water characters: Breq is the drone zombie-soldier (an ancillary) who has reluctantly, painfully been cut adrift as an isolated, independent individual when its primary personality, the massive troop carrier Justice of Toren, is destroyed in a fiendish plot to take over the Radch Empire. Seivarden is an arrogant young officer who once served on Justice of Toren, who has been in stasis for a thousand years, lost in deepest space when her subsequent command was destroyed and her escape pod went missing. She has been revived in a universe where her wealth and family connections have all vanished, and everything in the Radch Empire has changed out of all recognition. (She can't even understand the accents in the new Radchaai world she has woken up into.) Breq, who has made it her life's work to get revenge for the destruction of her Justice of Toren "self," its ancillaries and crew, and in particular one young officer who was her favorite, finds Seivarden when she has almost succeeded in getting herself killed through a combination of heavy drugs and poor life choices. Breq saves her, for reasons that Breq herself doesn't really understand (constantly reminding herself, "she had never been one of my favorite officers ..."), and together, this odd couple makes its way toward a face-off with the Lord of the Radch who is (and isn't, it's complicated ...) responsible for all this.

I really loved this, and trying to sum up the plot in less than a billion words, and without serious spoilers, has just reminded me just what fun it was, and how wonderfully Leckie has created a world of horrors and wonders, big McGuffins and small intriguing details. This is the Roman Empire, meets Iain M. Banks' Culture novels, meets the Padishah Emperors of "Dune," with an interesting bit of Ursula LeGuin's gender politics thrown in for good measure. This is Space Opera for the 21st Century, and it is rather wonderful.

BUT: I am holding fast with my 4-stars, because I still feel that Leckie isn't entirely in control of that (to me) all important question: what is it for? For Banks, it was the possibilities of true socialism in a post-scarcity culture, and the troubling ethics of doing bad things to achieve noble, admirable results. For Herbert, it was the environment, and the way that a back to basics, sustainable society might triumph over a high-tech, exploitative empire. For Leckie ... I'm not sure. But there are lots of great possibilities there, so I'll just have to see.
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