Monday, June 29, 2015

Book review: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie


Title: Ancillary Justice
Author: Ann Leckie
Release date: 2013
Publisher: Orbit
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: #1 in a trilogy
Source: Borrowed from a friend

Description: On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.
Once, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. 
Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance. 

My thoughts: If you read science fiction and haven't heard of this book yet, I'm not sure where you've been. I only dip an occasional toe into the SF side of SFF but I've been hearing about this book since it came out and started winning awards all over the place. My friend has a copy so I jumped at the chance to read it.

The book follows the starship 'Justice of Torren', an artificial intelligence. The story goes between the past where Justice of Torren was based on a planet, with hundreds of bodies (ancillaries) she controlled simultaneously, each functioning alone and able to function together as one, and the present, where she has been cut down to just one body and is using the name 'Breq'. The past sections paint the events leading up to the betrayal that led to the loss of all her other bodies and eventually the betrayal itself. The present follows Breq as she reaches (she hopes) the end of a twenty year quest for something that will give her vengeance on her betrayers.

The story is in first person from Justice of Torren/Breq's point of view which I think works very well. There were times when it was hard to get my head around how she could be controlling all the bodies at once, performing so many different tasks, having multiple conversations, but generally it was fine. One interesting side-effect of her narrating the story is that because the people who built her have no concept of gender, she refers to everyone as 'she'. Occasionally there are characters who she knows are on their planet male or female but she never actually reveals it in the narration - it's just "I used the correct gender pronoun for the language". I found this interesting but I've heard some people got annoyed with it.

I found the story really interesting, with plenty of 'oh crap now they're really in trouble' moments. It was very interesting to have the story told by an AI (artificial intelligence) and focussed around them and the nature of their ability to choose things, have feelings, express things while still being neutral, a computer built to obey. I'm definitely going to read the rest of the series to find out what happens next.

Overall I'm giving this 8/10.

~Ailsa

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