Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Book Review: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie


The Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie is the sort of science fiction I enjoy to get lost in when I open the pages of a new book. I first heard of this book as it gained momentum to win several major science fiction awards and the one feature described the most was the use of feminine pronouns. This change in characterization or word usage is actually only one facet of a complex novel that challenged me and changed the way I thought about science fiction.

The story focuses on Breq, or Justice of Toren, or several other names as she travels through the massive space that Leckie has created. The coolest part of Justice of Toren is the ability to occupy several bodies at once and see multiple scenes for the reader to follow. At points, this was difficult to grasp for my small mind but Leckie does such a brilliant job laying out the situation that I found myself turning the pages anxious to see how the story played out through this awesome new quasi-omniscient perspective.

A great part of the first book in the Radch trilogy is the way the book jumps through time from thousands of years to just twenty while also being very tied to a story in the present. The novel comes together nicely though impatient readers may get frustrated with how Leckie steadily lays out the back story before pursuing the main thread.

Only a few time was I caught off guard when a character with masculine qualities was described with feminine pronouns but the first narration of the Justice ship explains the way the Radchaai see gender and I love having my worldview shaken by fiction. It is also interesting because Breq used to be a ship so her body is a giant starship that could not be identified with any sort of gender qualities. I really like how the consciousness could be divided up into separate bodies called ancillaries, hence the title. The tendency to sing with the multiple bodies was a great and revealing character detail. 

Ann Leckie does a brilliant job balancing the politics of interplanetary domination with intense and emotional action scenes. The worlds and the universe felt very real to me and I'm exciting that this book kicks off a trilogy because I could tell there was a lot more to find out about the various civilizations and alien species. Leckie comes up with cools names for characters, like Anaander Mianaai and Skaiaat Awer, and alien species, like Rrrrr and Presger. 

This book won the Hugo award in 2014 and the conclusion is up for nomination this year. I will do a longer post about my upcoming attendance to WorldCon 2016 in Kansas City and my first opportunity to nominate fiction, editors and writers for the Hugo awards but the newest book will definitely be considered on my growing list of worth fiction of last year!

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