Book Review – Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

The blurb promises:

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. An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose–to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.

First of all I really like the cover of this book – it reminds me of classic sci-fi covers.

Considering that I’d seen this book on “best of” lists and that it’s won a bunch of awards, I was surprised to see that it was on sale.  I think this might be because it’s been nominated for a Hugo (more readers = more votes?), but maybe not.

Speaking of awards, I think one of the reasons that this book has been so well received is the pronouns.  Basically because the main character comes from a culture that doesn’t differentiate between genders, she has a hard time knowing what genders the people she meets are, and therefore which pronoun to use.  In order to show the reader this different point of view, the author has used “she” as the default pronoun, even when the gender of a character has been stated as male.  This feels disorienting and gives an alien impression (at least for male readers).  Then when the character attempts to use a pronoun and gets it wrong, it makes things more complicated because there are people whose gender the reader doesn’t know and are referred to by both pronouns.

Additionally, some of the character aren’t just individuals, they’re AIs or people connected together to form a larger person, so there are more identity issues.  Fortunately rather than being confusing this is mostly just interesting and adds complexity to the characters.

Something that did cause some problems was the fact that the names are a bit unpronounceable and some of them were too similar to each other.  Without even gender to identify the characters this made it difficult to work out what was going on sometimes.

So all in all this was a challenging book with lots of new ideas.