Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice


Rating: 4 Stars

The body lay naked and facedown, a deathly gray, spatters of blood staining the snow around it.



Plot


Breq used to be more than this single, frail body walking on backwater planets.

She used to be the Justice of Toren, a warship for the Radch. She had hundreds of ancillaries, human bodies she could use, often referred to as corpse soldiers. She was there at hundreds of annexations, expanding the Radch Empire.

Now she only has one body left. Her ship and ancillaries are gone. And she only has one goal: find Anaander Mianaai, the immortal Lord of the Radch, the ruler with hundreds of bodies, and get her revenge.


Review


This book has a pissed off warship Artificial Intelligence as it’s protagonist. Count me in!

Breq was an interesting protagonist. She was so different from what the ones you usually get. On the one hand, she is an artificial intelligence. On the other hand, she has feelings.

I think the balance between the two was very well written. I could connect with her while at the same time she didn’t read as a human.

“Ships have feelings.”

“Yes, of course.” Without feelings insignificant decisions become excruciating attempts to compare endless arrays of inconsequential things. It’s just easier to handle those with emotions. “But as I said, I took no offence.”



For example, she is very confused about the whole gender thing. I really liked that aspect of the book. Her people, the people of the Radch, don’t really distinguish genders. They call everyone she. Therefore, she has trouble distinguishing gender when on other planets.

Radchaai don’t care much about gender, and the language they speak – my own first language – doesn’t mark gender in any way. This language we were speaking now did, and I could make trouble for myself if I used the wrong forms. It didn’t help that cues meant to distinguish gender changed from place to place, sometimes radically, and rarely made much sense to me.



I loved the fact that she was the go-to pronoun and the way the gender aspect was incorporated. But I have to admit that it was also a bit confusing. Sometimes a character’s gender was revealed, but in general, we’re pretty much tapping in the dark. And since Breq calls everyone she, I of course always imagined women, even if I knew the person she was referring to was male.

“You don’t,” said the priest, an old person with gray hair and a close-cut gray beard, “find serving in Ors a hardship?” Both she and Lieutenant Awn had settled into cushions – damp, like everything in Ors, and fungal-smelling.



Another thing that made the book slightly confusing was the fact that Breq used to be many-bodied. And some groups of these bodies had slightly different personalities than others. For instance, the Esk One unit has a deep relationship with their Lieutenant Awn, whereas Justice of Toren doesn’t.

I had seen no few of those confiscated weapons – not I, One Esk, but I, Justice of Toren, whose thousands of ancillary troops had been on the planet during the annexation.



It is confusing. At the same time, this relationship was very sweetly written. Breq, as an AI doesn’t have feelings like humans do. She’s not in love/lust with her Lieutenant. And that was something I loved, this deep platonic, weird relationship between them.


Conclusion


Fascinating characters, an AI with feelings that retains its non-humanness, a interesting look at gender, a nice mystery and distant planets. Definitely recommendable!

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