Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1)
By: Ann Leckie
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
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.
From debut author Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice is a stunning space opera that asks what it means to be human in a universe guided by artificial intelligence.
Gosh, I heard so much about this book even before it was published (I think I first noted it either on a blog I follow or from Orbit Books’ official website). I think it was the premise that piqued my curiosity, as well as the whole AI/split from starship/corpse soldiers/AI out for revenge element. Then it came out to more rave reviews, and after that it started winning awards, thus it was bumping higher and higher up my wish-to-read pile until I finally picked it up some time ago. I read this book back in September but wanted to feature it in November’s Sci-Fi Month, hence the delay in publishing this review 😉
Ancillary Justice was such a compulsive read; after reading the first chapter, I just couldn’t put it down, I had to keep reading! There’s just something about Breq’s story, her narrative, that just compels the reader to find out more about the world and society she lives in, and what’s driving her onward.
The Radch Empire sounds very intriguing, from their military and political hierarchy to general society, history, social customs, lifespans. Breq’s experiences really brings the society to life, and the revelations about its political hierarchy was really interesting and adds another dimension to the overall story and worldbuilding. The use of “her” as the main pronoun in this society is a curious exercise as well, not only in informing the reader more about Radch society, but also as a general exercise in the way we perceive characters. It was also pretty cool that Breq is a ship (one of the many reasons why I was intrigued by the story to begin with) because she seems alien at times and yet she’s so in tune with the humans around her.
The story itself is hard to define a bit: is it a political thriller? A sci-fi/historical fiction epic in the making (okay, weird way to define it, I think the Radch Empire’s structure gives that sort of historical fiction feel)? I guess it’s a bit hard to define in my mind because it’s so character-driven via Breq, her experiences, but also the impact of the overall story to the characters around her: Lieutenant Awn, Seivarden, etc. It’s also perhaps a bit hard to define as one or the other (not that it’s a bad thing, of course!) because the reveal of what’s really going on is pretty complicated and all around pretty epic. The use of memory is quite effective in the storytelling as it informs Breq’s experiences to date, reveals more about the world, but also what ultimately drives Breq in her goals.
This post ultimately doesn’t really define too much about my thoughts about the book simply because it was just such an experience to read. I can see why it won all of the awards it did: it was a pretty unique experience to read, rich in worldbuilding, and just a great read all around. If you’re a fan of science fiction, I highly recommend you check out this novel.