A Year in Books – Ancillary Justice, by Anne Leckie

The challenge: to read a book a week for a year. Honestly, I have been undecided about it (which bodes poorly), however considering I can lock in 18 books, give or take, through book clubs, it seemed cowardly not to go for it. At least to see how long I can go. So, here it is – book reviews of each book I read from Nov 11, 2015 through to Nov 10, 2016. I was very tempted to start the challenge a week early so that I could include The Martian, which I finished on Nov 9, but decided against it. Might as well do this thing right!

Book 1: Ancillary Justice, by Anne Leckie

Winner of the 2014 Hugo Award, this is Anne Leckie’s first full-length novel. It is a fascinating and complex story that features an artificial intelligence known as Breq existing in humanoid form, once part of a Borg-like network of AI ships and ancillary soldiers, but now living as a single entity on a mission of revenge. She encounters a former colleague, Seivarden, who has been recently reanimated after 1000 years in cryogenic statis, and a series of events sees the two come to work together to hunt down common enemy. The book tracks two story lines (three, actually), one following the course of events in the present, and one that describes events of 20 years past that will reveal how Breq came to lose her AI network and what is driving her mission of revenge. The third story provides some cultural back-story along with some of the origin story of the Seivarden character.

Ancillary Justice weaves a fascinating tale of cultures in a world where planetary annexations are the norm, so much so that a very clear code of conduct is followed as entire planets are absorbed into the dominant culture. Details of the assorted worlds and cultures are revealed slowly, such that the reader must carefully piece tidbits together in order to start to understand the interactions of the various worlds.

Most interestingly, the society to which Breq belongs has no language distinctions for gender and in narrating the story, Breq uses feminine pronouns to describe all other characters, even when those characters are from a gender-defined culture and are known to be male. Only when speaking to someone about another (male) character does she use the pronouns “him” or “he”. I was impressed by how this technique affected my perception of the characters in the story. It was consistently surprising to be reminded that Seivarden was “male” when Breq refers to him as “her”.

I enjoyed the book, but admittedly will not jump right in to read the next two books in the trilogy as I would be had the story completely drawn me in. I do plan to read them, however.

Rating: Borrow it.

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