Thursday, December 4, 2014

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie

This was a very challenging sci-fi novel.  It is set in a universe so alien that nothing initially makes any sense; the proper nouns are difficult to sound out, the concepts are entirely foreign.  It is kind of like being in a conversation with people who are fluent in a language in which you can barely order a beer -- you follow it just enough to be interested but realize that you have no idea what's going on.

But it is very well written and interested me even as I was mystified by most of the first 50% of the novel.   The general idea is that the Radchaii race control things; their boss is Anaander Mianaai.   Mianaai is an entity comprising thousands of identical and linked entities.  Yes, that takes some getting used to.   Our hero is a ship, "Justice of Toren," which uses this same model of multiple entities to manifest itself as human-like beings while also being the AI system of the ship.

The Radchaii aren't all that sympathetic:  they annex worlds and one either joins up or becomes a once human no longer in control -- think zombie -like but more functional -- soldier (Ms. Leckie uses the word ancillary).   There is also a complex social hierarchy that I didn't fully fathom.

Okay, back to our hero. One of the instances of Justice of Toren is an ancillary called One Esk.  One Esk finds himself separated from the AI of Justice of Toren and his peers, and fakes being a human with the name Breq.   He takes up with a Radchaai named Seivarden, and moves forward on his goal to face as many instances of Anaander Mianaai as possible, in order to kill them.  Or at least a couple of them.

Complicated?  You betcha. Worth the read?  If you're into this genre, you're likely to enjoy this novel -- if you aren't freaked out by the learning curve.

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch)

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