Ancillary JusticeAncillary Justice by Ann Leckie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A refreshing take on space opera, and a fascinating main character (a self-aware spaceship AI that inhabits multiple bodies simultaneously).

We are introduced to the main character, who is a spaceship AI in multiple bodies, through the events of an annexation of a world. We see things from multiple points of view which all represent the same character. Through this story, told as flashbacks from another sequence, we find out about how the Radch works, and the values that empire has. The scenes are well written and avoid grand expositions, instead there is a gradual burn towards the climax.

One of the interesting features, which I liked, was that in the Radch language there is no gender pronoun, everyone is ‘her/she’. This is used to indicate when the speech is in Radchai and when it is in other languages. It also shows a level of confusion on gender from the AI, which genuinely doesn’t care about gender because it is a spaceship and not a person. For me, this adds to the character and helps you identify it as a spaceship, even though for most of the story it is inhabiting a body (the Ancillary of the title).

The meat of the story takes time to become clear in form, but the essence of it is a political struggle within the Lord of the Radch. This Lord is a human with multiple bodies, and over time they have formed (at least) two factions that struggle with different views on human vs. ancillary soldiers and also about whether or not to grow the empire further. This is the first part in a longer tale, and the story ends with the start of a civil war.

One of the best books that I have read all year, I very strongly recommend that you read it.

UPDATE: This has been nominated for a 2014 Hugo.

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