Review: Ancillary Justice
Title: Ancillary Justice
Author: Ann Leckie
Genre: Science fiction
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Goodreads Summary:On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.
I LOVED THIS.
You know the kinds of books that require a lot more thinking than whatever you'd been reading recently, and you have to read and re-read the first bit multiple times until things start to make sense? My first experience with that sort of book was A Wrinkle in Time, my first sci-fi book at the age of 8. I think I was just too young to understand the whole tesseract business and I had to read the first part of the book so many times just to understand what was happening, but once I got that under my belt I loved the book. My experience with Ancillary Justice was almost identical, except this time I can't use the "I was too young to understand" card. Shame on me and my escapism-loving brain haha
While I did have to read the first 50 or so pages twice to get a good grip on this book, once I got familiar with all the terminology and the way the world worked, I was hooked. This book has layers upon layers to unearth, and both the past and present storylines were captivating. I was never disappointed when we switched back and forth from one story to the other because both were equally interesting and had really high stakes.
What I loved about this book is how much it stretched my brain. The main character is a spaceship AI, in case you didn't know, and it doesn't know/chooses not to distinguish between men and women. How can it distinguish that when so many different cultures have so many different ways of projecting and presenting masculinity and femininity? So the spaceship uses "she" for everyone unless specifically corrected. It makes for some mindbending reading as you try and figure out if characters are male or female because that's just something we've been trained to think is important; then you think about it and you realize that the character's gender has no bearing on their actions/personality/role in the story so is it really worth trying to figure out if wearing jewelry makes someone female in this society? But you end up trying to figure it out anyway.
I thought the exploration of gender roles and stereotypes was excellently done, and at first it seems like the book is beating you over the head with the pronoun choice but it's actually quite subtle. The world is rich and varied, and people of all skin tones populate it. I very much appreciated the sweeping diversity of this book.
I also loved how complex the main conflict was. It takes quite a while for the past and present storylines to converge, but once they do, you are blown away by the implications of the past on the present and future. There's no easy way out, and you really don't know who you can trust. Even if you completely disregard the actual plot, it's just such an interesting journey to see how Breq develops from Justice of Toren to One Esk to Breq. It's not even really a development, because that implies linearity and a single progression, but it's more of a simultaneous accumulation of changes in different parts of the same entity. Confused? I was too, for a good chunk of the book, but I promise you'll eventually wrap your head around it.
I enjoyed this book so much I bought myself a copy, because I definitely see myself re-reading this over and over again. I cannot wait to read more of this trilogy!