by Ann Leckie
Orbit Books, 2013
In her award-winning first book of the Imperial Radch trilogy, Leckie tells the story of Breq. When we first me Breq, she is alone, in one body. However, Breq was not always limited to one being; she used to be the consciousness of the starship Justice of Torren before she lost everything but a single body (referred to as One Esk).
Ancillary Justice moves between the present and the past. We learn what happened to Justice of Torren and specifically the corpse solider One Esk in a heart-breaking tale of both friendship and politics. At the same time, we read about present-day Breq, who is trying to find a legendary weapon that will possibly allow her to get revenge upon Anaander Minai, Lord of the Radch, responsible for the tragedy in her past.
Several things make Ancillary Justice unique. First, the book is written from the point-of-view of a former conscious starship that used to control thousands of bodies. The point-of-view is unusual and strange, as readers sometime get glimpses of multiple events happening simultaneously. Second, Breq’s language does not have any concept of gender, so Breq struggles to identify who is masculine and feminine. She uses ‘she’ by default, and sometimes readers will not find out until later whether a characters is male or female.
Leckie takes her time creating this world and exploring what it means to write from a starship’s point-of-view. Leckie also has carefully crafted all of her characters, not only Breq, but Justice of Toren’s last commander, Lieutenant Awn, and a former soldier on Justice of Torren fallen on hard times, Seivarden. Because of this, Ancillary Justice moves more slowly than some science fiction. However, Leckie successfully weaves together a compelling tale that won her a Nebula Award in 2013. Ancillary Justice is worth visiting if you like unusual points-of-view or science fiction with strong characterization and writing.
You Might Also Consider…
- If you want another science fiction book that explores gender and uses one gender pronoun, try The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin
- If you want another space opera that asks big questions about what it means to be human and inspired Ann Leckie, check out Foreigner by C. J. Cherryh