Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie: Review

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Title: Ancillary Justice
Author: Ann Leckie
Publisher: Orbit
Publication Date: October 2013
Length: 416
Series: Imperial Radch (#1)
Reason for Discovery: Sword & Laser book club pick and galley

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
From GoodReads:
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren--a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose--to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch. From debut author Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice is a stunning space opera that asks what it means to be human in a universe guided by artificial intelligence.

Many years ago, Anaander Mianaai hurt Breq in an imaginable way. Breq has been biding her time, but she is now in the final stages of her revenge mission. A complication arises when she runs into a near-dead soldier, Seivarden, she used to know. Hopefully, Seivarden will not be too much trouble. Sounds like a run of the mill story? Oh, by the way, Breq used to be a starship and the thousands of corpse soldier working in it. Now, Breq is only one of those soldiers.

This has been one of the hardest reviews for me to write. This book is a very interesting book, but it is not for everyone. I feel like I need to state up front that this book is written for fans of hard science fiction. If you do not like hard science fiction, you are probably not going to like this book. 

Okay, let's talk about what works really well in this book. Breq is a really neat character. She is a starship! Okay, she isn't one anymore, but she was a starship! Throughout the book, you are constantly reminded that Breq is different from humans (but not in a bad or frustrating way). She has some difficulty at times relating to people and showing the proper facial expressions. Also, Breq and the Radch she used to serve don't recognize gender. She refers to everyone as she. Every so often, another character will refer to someone as he (when his/her language uses gender), but Breq thinks and refers to everyone as she. It is a really fascinating concept to have your protagonist POV character not recognize something like gender. I found that I didn't mind everyone being called she and that I didn't care who was male and who was female. I should also mention that the other characters are written just as carefully. Although the readers only get information about them through Breq, so we get the impression that we are losing information through the translation.

The plot isn't anything too groundbreaking, but it is a very interesting tale of revenge. Throughout the book, you get flashbacks to learn why Breq is out for revenge. In the book, you learn that starships care greatly for their captains and that some have gone crazy after their captains have died. You just can't help wondering what happened to Breq and what led her to this point in her life. While this story is happening, Breq and Seivarden are delicately navigating their relationship. Breq feels compelled to help Seivarden. At the same time, Seivarden is a junky and wants to steal Breq's money and is constantly suspicious about why Breq is helping her.

The one thing that I didn't like about this book is the one thing that I can't change about this book and that you as a possible reader need to be okay with. Ancillary Justice is a bit dry. It has that slightly dry hard science fiction tone. Is it an interesting read with a fascinating story? Yes. Would I compare it to a space opera like Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey? No. I struggle when I read hard science fiction. In the end, I usually really enjoy the book and the interesting issues that are discussed, but I need to finish the book to appreciate it.

I am a little surprised to say this, but overall I really enjoyed this book. I even want to go back and reread it. I know that there were a few things that I missed early on, and I think rereading those scenes will make me enjoy the book even more. Again, I want to state for the record, this book is perfect for a hard science fiction fan. I think others may like it, but hard SF-ers are really going to enjoy this one.

I give this book a 4 out of 5.



Michelle @ In Libris Veritas said...
December 18, 2013 at 1:41 AM

I've seen this one around but this is the first time I've actually paid attention to it. It has such a cool concept! I haven't read very much hard sci-fi so I'm a bit hesitant, but I'm definitely keeping this in mind. Great review!

Chanzie said...
December 18, 2013 at 4:01 AM

Very interesting review! I found it a little confusing that Breq was a starship and now is a human. was this a position on the ship? otherwise this sounds like a very interesting read :)

Chanzie @ Mean Who You Are.

Linda @ (un)Conventional Bookworms said...
December 18, 2013 at 12:28 PM

Not bad that you were able to give it 4 stars even if there were things that didn't really work for you. How did Breq go from being a starship AND the soldiers and now she is only one soldier? That would probably make it very difficult for me to suspend disbelief...

Thanks for your honest review, Pamela :)

Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...
December 18, 2013 at 9:37 PM

Hmm, I love the concept of her having been a ship, the whole love for captain thing. I understand exactly what you mean about needed to finish the book and then reflect back. I imagine this is the type of book where you read it in tiny bursts since it tends to dry,

Tabitha (Pabkins) said...
December 22, 2013 at 11:10 PM

I AM surprised you like it - only because I have an inkling of just how long you were reading seems like months! Revenge stories can be good - I do plan to give it a try someday but it might be awhile.

Unknown said...
December 25, 2013 at 12:01 AM

The concepts in the book are very neat. If you try it and are not loving it, try to get 30-40% through it before stopping it. Some people loved it from the get go, but others seem to struggle with it for a little bit and then get hooked.

Unknown said...
December 25, 2013 at 12:03 AM

Breq is the computer of the starship. The starship's computer and thoughts are also in a bunch of corpse soldiers that work on the ship. It is a hive mind situation where the ship and soldiers all know things but they can theoretically hide things from each other too.

Unknown said...
December 25, 2013 at 12:06 AM

What happened to Breq is explained in her flashbacks. Breq is a starship and the soldiers all at once, it was a hive mind mentality. Now the starship and all of the soldiers are gone except for Breq.

Unknown said...
December 25, 2013 at 12:11 AM

Yep, there was a part that was a bit dry, and everything else I was reading was more exciting at the time. However, once I got to 60%, the flashbacks slowed down and the story really came together. I found myself wanting to go back and reread the book after I finished it, and I was excited with the idea of rereading it. I really thought I was going to rate it a differently, but once I sat down and thought about the book and my intense desire to go back and reread it, I had to rate it a 4.

Unknown said...
December 25, 2013 at 12:16 AM

I was honestly surprised that I rated it so highly. I was drawn into the story at first, and then it got slow for a bit and then everything else I was reading seemed more exciting. But then, I started back on it and it drew me back in. Also, after I finished reading it, I really want to go back and reread it. In fact, I still do and will probably do a reread next year. This happens with me and hard sci-fi books. I go kicking and screaming through them sometimes, and then once I finish the book and am on the other side, I fall in love with the book.

Also, I thought one of the characters was going to be a jerk, so I stopped reading for a bit. Of course, once I picked the book back up, I discovered that the characters did the right thing and wasn't a jerk, so all my worry was for naught. I need to start believing in book characters more often.

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