Review of 'Ancillary Justice'

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
1st book in the 'Imperial Radch' series

ancillary_justice.jpg Thousands of years in the future we meet Breq who we learn is an ancillary: A remote AI formerly attached to the Radch starship “Justice of Toren”. On a remote ice planet she encounters Seivarden who was a lieutenant on the Justice of Toren but is now drugging herself to oblivion. Switching back to 19 years earlier, the Justice of Toren was on duty on the planet of Shis'urna which was being brought into the Radch empire with it's inhabitants now Radch somewhat un-equal citizens. The relative peace is threatened when a cache of weapons are found though this only scratches the surface of what is really going on…

A very unusual book that has a number of aspects you have to get your head around, for example, the idea that you have a spaceship with humanoid remote AIs connected to each other. There are some interesting aspects this throws up that goes to the root of the threat to the galaxy that it ultimately exposed by Breq and she pursues her vendetta against Lord of the Radch, Anaander Mianaai who herself uses multiple synchronized bodies to control her empire. The narrative switches between the present day with Breq seeking vengeance and the story from 19 years earlier of why she is doing so.

I found this difficult to read both with it's unusual terminology (one central conceit is that the Radchaai do not distinguish gender so I was often confused about who is who particularly when Breq herself gets confused) and the one dimensional characters that seem more often than not as simple plot devices rather than fully-formed people. It is not only that the characters are not exactly likeable but also that they seem to have quite a narrow-minded outlook that only seems to change when a deeper truth is revealed. A great idea is one thing but it is tricky going if you don't particularly care for any of the main characters…Sure, I have sympathy for Breq but that is hardly the same thing.

“Ancillary Justice” won all of the major SF book awards going and I can see why with it's interesting central premise and the element of classical space opera. Note that there are two further books in the “Imperial Radch” trilogy that continue Breq's quest for revenge.

Rating: “It is OK but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2022-03-13

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Orbit

Publication Date: 2013

ISBN: 9780356502403

Other reviewed books by Ann Leckie: