Ancillary Justice

Ancillary Justice

Book - 2013
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IndyPL_SteveB Apr 26, 2019

Incredibly original and creative science fiction novel which won both the Hugo Award and Nebula Award for Best Novel. You are just thrown into this future universe with little explanation; but once you get a little ways in and can start to appreciate what is going on, you can’t put it down.

Breq, apparently a well-trained soldier, is actually the last remaining “ancillary” of a space battle cruiser’s artificial intelligence. In this universe, technology allows the Radchaii military to remove the identity of captured enemies and turn them into extensions of the ships. Each ship has thousands of perfectly obedient ancillaries. But in this case, the ship was destroyed while this ancillary was disconnected from the main A.I.

Leckie examines what it might be like to be a small remnant of a larger mind and, since much of the story is told in flashback, we also see what it was like to have been a PART of that larger mind. The story is told in first person, which allows Leckie to write the story in multiple first person viewpoints of the same identity. One of the details I really liked is the vagueness of the genders of the characters. Because of different languages and cultural traditions, whether someone is identified as “male” or “female” in the use of pronouns depends on different things in different cultures. The reader cannot tell what gender we would use for any character, which is purposely disorienting.

This is the first of a series. It’s a GREAT start and should be on every SF reader’s short list to read.

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wildfireheart
Mar 15, 2019

#1- The Ancillary series

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gregdryke
Dec 27, 2018

probs something SSC related

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Barbdesign
Sep 25, 2018

No wonder this work won the Nebula, and for a first-time author! It broke through walls in my mind that I didn't know existed, and creates an even stronger fabric in the ongoing tapestry of gender equality. Brilliantly portrays a more fully developed artificially intelligent being, while probing what it means to be human. Worth rereading the series.

r
ryner
Sep 14, 2018

I'm not entirely certain yet how I feel about this crafty novel. Despite space-focused sci-fi rarely being a genre I gravitate toward, I absolutely enjoyed and was entertained by it. However, due to its complex nature, I'm convinced that there were details or understandings that slipped by me, although maybe a re-read would increase my appreciation further. Definitely going to pick up book #2 in a month or two to see what happens next.

MWBalderstone Aug 15, 2018

Ann Leckie's debut novel is the only book to win all three of the Hugo Award for best novel, Nebula Award for best novel, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award for best novel, and I can entirely understand why.

'Ancillary Justice' is an outstanding novel with fantastic characterization, well developed plot, and interesting conceptually. Conceptually, the novel serves as an interesting exploration into both gender and colonization through its various narrative devices; the characterization of the ancillary "corpse soldiers" was memorable and striking in particular.

Ultimately, a well worthy recipient of all its accolades and will serve as a benchmark for science-fiction in the 21st Century for years to come.

a
airyen
Feb 24, 2018

Ancillary Justice is a powerful experience to read. One of the most immersive parts is the book’s approach to gender and worldbuilding in general. All Radchaai citizens go by she/her pronouns and gender effectively does not exist (leading to some conundrums when Breq, on other planets, needs to appear non-Radchaai and has to figure out the concept of gender on the fly). As I read and found myself inadvertently gendering characters, this part of the book led to some interesting self-reflection. The worldbuilding around the concept of ancillaries are also fascinating: the Radchaai conquest formerly had an aim of collecting humans in suspended animation to later be ancillary bodies, with implants forced into them that effectively killed them and slaved their bodies to the AIs of ships; however, new reforms in the Radch have banned “manufacture” of ancillaries although ships continue to operate with ancillaries, which they consider parts of themselves and near-impossible to live without. The prose is also very sparse with just enough description to let you imagine a whole world outside the characters—think J.K. Rowling.

Ancillary Justice is highly acclaimed, but the plot itself is not the most compelling independently (the two sequels, Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy, fill in plot holes). I was compelled enough by the concept of ancillaries, Radchaai culture, and Breq’s character to keep reading, but if you can’t immerse yourself, the plot can seem to drag. If you can stick through it, though, the story picks up in the latter half/third and definitely gets better in the later books.

It’s not for everyone, but I definitely liked reading it and couldn’t put it down—I’m still rereading! Something about it struck a chord with me, though I can't put my finger on it. It's immersive and gorgeous, a space opera in every sense.

t
tilley200
Dec 30, 2017

Brilliant book! It takes a lot of energy to read (you really are dropped into this world with characters unlike anything you've ever read before), but it's totally worth it.

BostonPL_LauraB Nov 29, 2017

I went in being pretty excited for this despite not reading much SF, and most of that was because it was supposed to be kind-of unique and also an award-winner. But what it was, was mostly very confusing for me. I do not have the mind for specific types of SF, and this was one of those. Weirdly though, I actually read the book decently fast, I just don't think I was absorbing much. So I'll just say that this wasn't my cup of tea, but others may like it.

a
aimiller
Jul 09, 2017

I want to say that me not giving it a full five stars has a lot to do with the fact that my reading of the book was sort of unfortunately chopped up because of library return policies (which is my fault, not the library's!) But this book was such a rich world that I'm excited to explore more; I really felt immersed in it, and think Leckie did an amazing job conveying this experience that is in a lot of ways totally alien. I also think that the plot is so incredibly- how to articulate this. I really think that what she's set up is incredible because it's so not easy, and especially for Breq, there are things that are just out of her power even as much as they frustrated me. It's a sort of main character/hero that's unlike anything else I've encountered before, and it really challenged me as a reader in my reactions and understandings of the character, and how I felt about those actions over the course of the book. So, so impressed with that part of the storytelling, honestly.

I also wanna address the gender issue bc I think that was the reason I read this book in the first place (in addition to it being recommended to me by about 10,000 people): this book challenged my sense of gender so, so well; I was constantly reminding myself that despite the pronouns, I shouldn't be assuming the gender of the characters, and then doublechecking that assumption and going "no it's just that gender is fake" and that was really challenging but also exhilarating and exciting as a reader??? So like MORE OF THIS IN ALL GENRES OF FICTION PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

Overall I really really did like this book, and I am looking forward to more of this world and all of its intrigues!

s
ScorchingSun
Apr 21, 2017

At page 60.
All the gibberish names and foggy relationships of characters, places and historical events have gone in one ear and out the other, so to speak.
If you can flail your arms through the literary cobwebs to find the wonderful nuggets that other reviewers have raved about, then good luck to you.

a
ApollosRaven
Jan 12, 2017

An extraordinary achievement. Sequels Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy are fabulous. This series has re-written the space opera.

ArapahoeBridget Jan 11, 2017

I know I'm late to the party, but I really enjoyed reading this. All the good things other people have said? They aren't wrong. It's twisty and weird and super satisfying with great characters. If you're in the mood for sci-fi that will keep you turning pages and staying up way past your bedtime, get your hands on this series.

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FranBee
Nov 09, 2016

I read two of the three books in this series prior to meeting the author at the 2015 Carondelet Library Author's Breakfast. Not only are they a good read (I'm drawn to books where the characters actively work towards a just world) they're revealingly feminist in a captivating and provocative way. I highly recommend the series!

y
yonah9
Oct 23, 2016

I really loved this book. It has a very innovative concept I haven't seen explored before and the author avoids falling into common cliches. The characters are well-developed and the plot is interesting and unpredictable. I appreciated how Leckie explained the actions and viewpoints of the major players but doesn't excuse them. This book is very well-written and I recommend it.

l
laurakramer22
Aug 26, 2016

This book is well written but a bit confusing with all of the invented, outer-space language. There were so many planets and cultures and people to keep straight, it got overwhelming at times, especially in the first half of the book. It really is a "space opera;" it's a dramatic plot but sometimes you just don't understand what's really going on.

KateHillier Jul 04, 2016

I actually tried this once before and didn't have the patience to get more than a few pages into it. Then I read up on it a bit more, went away for a weekend, and made sure I had the patience for it. This is a book that doesn't spoonfeed you. You're dropped into this world, with this character who is unlike any character I've ever seen in Sci-Fi. I mean, yes, there is AI in scifi but not like this.

The pronoun "she" takes some getting used to, especially considering once you find out that certain characters are in fact male and Breq continues to refer to them as she (the language she's using doesn't recognize gender and the default pronoun happens to be equivalent to she). But you get used to it and really I found myself being as indifferent to gender as Breq and the Radchaai themselves are.

It's a slowly unwinding plot, one in the present and one taking place twenty years earlier, and the perspective shifts constantly considering what Breq is. It's a fantastic amount of dedication and imagination and you have to respect that if nothing else. Once I got the rhythm of the world, I devoured this thing. I have the next two books on order. I can totally understand the hype on this one and it is definitely well deserved.

CRRL_MaryB May 28, 2016

A gripping tale of vengeance, culture-shock, and what makes someone human.

Rbrightone Aug 17, 2015

This book was very strange but well worth it. It messes with gender and identity and there were times when I was very confused about who was talking or what was talking but once I started wrapping my head around the use of confusing pronouns I found it a very very interesting book. Its an interesting story and if you are looking for something a little different I would check it out.

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msw44
Jun 04, 2015

Wonderful (soft sci fi) space opera. 2014 Hugo and Nebula winner.

b
BooksOfAFeather
May 25, 2015

I really enjoyed this and am not surprised at the slew of awards. However, I can see how the writing style and gender neutrality of the characters could throw off a lot of readers. I caught myself continually trying to figure out the different characters genders, but then would think, "Why is it important to know? Would it change anything that's going on right now?" It's also pretty philosophical at times, which I liked, but others may not.

c
Chantillary
May 24, 2015

I have to say that as a voracious reader and given the awards this book has won, I was expecting a Master level work. Especially given the books it beat out for the 2014 Hugo Award.

I was sadly disappointed. Speaking as someone who proofreads and edits books, being thrown out of the reader's trance in the first paragraph is not an indication of good things to come. Being thrown out twice had me put the book aside and not even bother with its sequel. It's decentj, not even good journeyman work.

To quote from the first page of the book:

"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."

Two things wrong with this paragraph. If you're describing the temperaturs with the term "Celsius", you needn't use the word "degrees" as it's implied. And if you're calling an ice-block building "A tavern", it's not necessary to call it a tavern in the next sentence.

Speaking as an editor, which this book could've really used, that first sentence would have been much more impactful had it read something more like:

"The body lay naked, facedown, deathly gray, blood-stained snow spattered around it. It was minus fifteen Celsius and a storm had passed hours before. The snow stretched smooth in the wan sunrise, a few tracks leading into a nearby ice-block building. A tavern. Or what passed for one in this town."

But that's just my opinion.

t
thepanekroom
May 07, 2015

As a person who likes to read about smart people being quietly competent, I very much enjoyed Ancillary Justice. The author is very good at showing how complicated it is to be in so many places at once, and what sort of person can handle that. Stayed up too late reading this one, and will probably do the same with the sequel...!

modis01 Feb 03, 2015

Convoluted plot at times and difficult to follow. Some masterfully written scenes and unique concepts, but could have used better editing

c
Chapel_Hill_KenMc
Feb 01, 2015

Leckie's first novel hit a home run, winning both the Hugo and Nebula awards for 2014. The pace may be too slow for some readers, but the sustained internal tension in her protagonist maintains interest in the unfolding events. Leckie's narrator is an artificial intelligence entity that once occupied many bodies and a starship, and is now reduced to one (implant-enhanced) body. Also compelling is the author's playful shifting of gender assignments, and ongoing class-based schisms within the empire's officer corps. The first of a trilogy.


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