- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Orbit (1 October 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 031624662X
- ISBN-13: 978-0316246620
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 3.2 x 21 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,13,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch) Paperback – 1 Oct 2013
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Description for Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch)
"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."―io9.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
"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)
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In addition to being extremely well written, there are so many dimensions to “Ancillary Justice” that it is easy to see why it won the Hugo award. On one level this is pure space opera- distant future, multi-world, heroic protagonist, conflict between good and evil, great emotion. On another, it also does what sci fi does at its best- pointing out the ambiguity in what is “good” or “evil” and the never ending conflict between the “haves” and the “have nots”. The later was a little too overt and on-the-nose for me which kept me from really loving the book.
Another dimension is the now famous use of pronouns. The dominant human culture’s language does not recognize gender and everyone is referred to as “she”. This may have given “Ancillary” a reputation as a “feminist” book but it most emphatically is not. Gender roles really aren’t the theme here (see above) it is much more subtle than that. As you’re reading you find yourself recognizing assumptions you’ve made about gender behaviors and subtext you add based on your own prejudices. This adds depth and makes the book more interesting but be warned- it also makes some things more difficult. I usually have at least a vague visualization of the characters but that’s hard to do when you have no idea of gender :)
“Ancillary Justice” kept me engrossed and once I adjusted to the pronoun issue, I couldn’t put it down. Although it can be read as a standalone, I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the trilogy.
If, like me, you've put off reading this book, don't. Get a copy and start now. I can be pretty sure you won't want to put it down and will be cranky with the people around you who interrupt your reading.
I won't give any spoilers. But I will say this: if you've been put off by the literary-minded comments about gender and society, intelligence, AI, politics, set-knowledge that this book has triggered, don't be. It's not a heavy-handed philosophical treatise.
Read it. You won't be sorry.
(As a quick aside, but the length of time Justice of Toren has been around, coupled with the occasions wherein the ancillaries had yet to be destroyed, offered the one and only time I’ve ever seen an author jump through hoops to write a third-person limited omniscience in the first person. Bravo, Ann Leckie. I’m sure it was the source of much aggravation. Impressive, for sure.)
Narratively, these types of far-reaching military-style sci-fi novels are nothing new: Bad empires, self-conscious AI's, Ronin-esque soldiers seeking revenge... it's been done. However, that's what makes this book work, its generally straightforward narrative. Sure, Leckie plays with non-linear events, but she telegraphs those shifts loud and clear. The whole thing boils down to "underdog sets off to confront the head of an evil empire" and that is about as tried and true a storyline as you're apt to find in the sci-fi genre. Again, it is this utterly simple story that allows Leckie to indulge in the complexities of POV and how a fractured, but not wholly unreliable, mind affects narration. Yes, you do find out One Esk's memories have been tampered with, but only in the sense that the AI has been forced to forget certain details. One Esk is never willfully hiding anything. The intelligence acts with three basic, programmable instincts that are inherit to thinking artificiality: observation, anticipation, and action. In fact, you could argue that any sense of unreliable narration is more at the fault of Leckie and how she has chosen to write the tale, than the tale itself. Though, again, the non-linear nature is a way for Leckie to sidestep the tried and true formula and head into something more challenging. It is, truly, a way to move the genre forward by also staying true to what's come before--by showing us the complexity capable within common tropes.
And, regarding gender within the narrative:
I never stopped thinking about gender as I read this book. And Leckie, with her complete disregard of common gender identifiers, wrote herself—not into a corner—but into an open field of deniability. You can infer what you want about the characters, bring your own identifiers and generalizations to the table. One Esk can be read easily as a man or as a woman. During my initial read through, I must admit that I leaned toward One Esk having been a female, but having separated myself from the text and mulling over it, I have actually come to the strong inclination that One Esk is, actually, a male.
And sex and sexuality exists, clearly such a relationship was had by Skaaiat and Awn, but you are simply left to infer everything on your lonesome.
For instance, Radchaai defaults to the feminine, yes? And it is an empire with a single (for all intents and purposes) ruler in the form of Anaander Mianaai. Logically, you could be forgiven then for coming to the conclusion that the Radchaai is a matriarchal society, and that Anaander Mianaai—despite her many fluid forms—is their matriarch. And perhaps that is part of what Leckie is getting at with the clear division in Mianaai: the aggressor and the pacifist. Male or female, female or male… I don’t really know, though that is the point, yes? Does it really matter at all? Even age is obliterated in regards to identity, as the last we see of Mianaai exists in the body of a very young child, itself a contradiction.
Perhaps it is simply Leckie asking us to consider not what is on the outside at all, and only ever consider what is within, consciousness, the ephemeral impulses that exist between our ears and behind our eyes.
My biggest complaint:
Now, keep in mind, I have not read this entire series, only this entry. I can only speak for this particular book. Having said that, I’ll proceed.
Justice of Toren One Esk doesn’t have a real character arc. One Esk is at the end, as they are in the beginning: an intelligent AI, capable of stunning violence, at the mercy of its own programming, literally at the mercy of the antagonist. Even the “goal” of this protagonist is revealed to be nothing more than the product of a direct order given by the antagonist at an earlier point. Lots of things happen to Justice of Toren One Esk, and many things happen around One Esk, but there is a passivity to the character that is carried throughout the narrative. Only the reluctance to leave behind an estranged soldier—an event that is presented as pure chance (not the only dash of Deus ex Machina within this narrative)—gives the AI a hint of character beyond the façade of cold calculation.
This is troublesome, as the narrative all but sets up neon signs advertising growth as an obvious outcome of passing time. “We’re not what we used to be,’ said the head priest. ‘Everything passes, eventually” (pg 78).
And further into the narrative you get this weighty bit of discourse:
“Or is anyone’s identity a matter of fragments held together by convenient or useful narrative, that in ordinary circumstances never reveals itself as a fiction? Or is it really a fiction?” (pg 303)
And these are all very worthy of discussion, though they don’t really apply to Justice of Toren One Esk, because—as I stated earlier—One Esk remains a constant all the way through to the climax. “But I had always been, first and foremost, a weapon. A machine meant for killing” (pg 529)
Regardless of this, I was engaged throughout the work. And though I am not normally in the habit of reading series, I am seriously considering picking up the next book.