Quite a complex novel with a very original main character
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: 4 stars
Part of a series: Imperial Radch #1
OK so in the end this was not a Romantic Sci-Fi Book. Why was it in my romantic book TBR list? You know, I’ve got several lists of books I want to read. There's a literary one, another one with nonfiction books and of course a list with romance novels that someone has ever considered interesting. This should be in the Sci-Fi list, not in the romantic one.
I guess it was there because in All About Romance they considered that The Imperial Radch series was a DIK (Desert Island Keeper) in AAR and it was also graded with an A in dear author.
So I thought that, being reviewed in romance novels webpages meant these books were – romance novels. But it is not. Anyway, those two reviews are very useful to me, as I’ve read this book in a Spanish translation.
The thing is that when I was more or less 50 pages into this book, I was enjoying it but I understood very little. So I stopped reading and I went to the Internet to read a couple of reviews in Sci-Fi sites, and that way I could begin to understand what was going on.
First, the main character. She is a space warship, AI Justice of Toren. It’s got several bodies, not only the conscience of the battleship –Justice of Toren- but it has also several previously dead human bodies used as ancillaries. One mind, different people. Kind of the Trinity theology in the Catholic religion, I guess. Impossible to understand when you think about it. This way, the Justice can be in different places at the same time.
But note that those battleships are also served by human people as officers. It’s interesting to see how the AI interacts the human people they work with. The AIs have emotions and they like some people more than other.
Secondly, as the book is told in a first person narrative, from this Justice thing POW, and she does not recognize human genders, she uses ‘it’ or ‘she’. Everything is female by default, which is an interesting turn of things. This is a more intense option in Spanish, as it’s a more gendered language than English. So it took me a time just to ignore this fact and accept that who cares what anybody’s sex was.
Then there was this thing about alternating chapters: one told you a story that happened with the space warship twenty years ago, in a recently conquered planet, Shis’urna’s, and the problems of dominating and new territories. Those chapters are told from the warship and its ancillaries POV, so one sentence can be in the warship, and the next one in a town and the other one in a house. It can be confusing if you don’t read it with you whole attention. It’s a real omniscient narrator!
And then the next chapter comes to the ‘present’, when the space battleship has disappeared, with all its ancillaries but one, One Esk Nineteen. It appears as Breq, just a human body in a very remote and cold planet, Nilt. It’s looking for a powerful arm in order to kill somebody as revenge. Here, Breq discovers someone that was an officer of her battleship a thousand years ago. It saves him (it’s a man, but Breq keeps on talking about him as a ‘she’) for no apparent reason, only that it was an officer, but not one that this AI particularly liked. This person, Seivarden, is sully and addicted to a drug, so here we find another problem Breq has to deal with in its quest.
It’s an amazing book, with complex ideas behind it. But it’s not dense or boring. There’s action and at the same time thoughtfulness. I particularly enjoyed the scenes in that cold planet at the beginning; it was like watching a Swedish movie or something like that.
This book was the first one published by Ann Leckie and it was quite an impressive debut, as it won the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke awards. I think anybody can enjoy it, even if it’s not a Sci-Fi is not your favourite genre.
I think the best way to sum it up is what was written in the Dear author’s review I mentioned before:
Ancillary Justice is an amazing novel, one that works, and works beautifully, on multiple levels. Not only does it explore themes like identity, imperialism and gender, but it also investigates loyalty, loss, and justice.
There are two other books in the series, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy, but although I’ve enjoyed this one a lot, I’m not sure I’ll read them in the future. I think my main problem is the language. That option of making everybody a female is particularly irritating in Spanish. The other two books in the series have not been translated yet. But I’m not sure if reading these books in English wouldn’t be quite difficult to me. I want to know what happens next, but I’m not sure what to do. Shall I try them in English? Should I wait to see if they translate them into Spanish?