Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Sometimes it takes me a couple tries to get going in a book. In this case, it was three tries over 5 months. I picked up Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice when it started hitting everyone’s radar in mid 2014. But after two months and two tries, I didn’t make it out of the first chapter. So I put it aside for a while while it garnered more praise and many, many awards. I finally picked it back up over the holidays and this time I made it through and enjoyed it. It’s an interesting book not only for its wonder story and characters, but it’s gender politics as well. It’s unlike other books that I’ve read and I’m now looking forward to the sequels. Let’s check it out.

Breq is the last of a ship. And I mean that literally. Breq was an Ancillary to the ship Justice of Toren. The ship is run by an AI and it uses Ancillaries (AI controlled human bodies) to be its eyes, ears and hands on and off the ship. The Justice of Toren was destroyed with all its Ancillaries, except for Breq. And now Breq is on a mission. But first she finds Seivarden, face down in the snow and drugged up. Seivarden was a human officer on The Justice of Toren a thousand years ago and there is no reason why she should be on this planet at this time. And there is no reason why Breq should save her and bring her along. But she does.

The story ping pongs back and forth between Breq’s current journey and her previous (life? existance?) as One Esk from the Justice of Toren and the story of what hapened to The Justice of Toren. Along the way we realize that Breq has a minor handicap. She’s unable to tell genders. So everyone she refers to everyone as a she (unless Breq gets external validation that the person is male). This creates a unique view on things when you can’t visualize people because you can’t tell what gender they are. And starts you wondering how much not knowing the gender matters.

Overall the book has a wonderful set of characters. The story is well-done with an engaging plot that has some potential philosophical implications. Some of those implications aren’t drawn out too much because of the need to hide parts of the plot until later in the story. I could see the book being re-edited to be a more philosophical musing, but that’s not the story Leckie was interested in telling. Breq is a wonderfully unique character who is fully developed and has an interesting backstory and journey. The plot feels a little rushed near the end while setting up the sequel, but that can be forgiven for such a wonderfully written novel. Highly Recommended.