November 24, 2019

Over the last few months I have been reading the Ancillary Justice (or Imperial Radch) trilogy of books by Ann Leckie. The novels follow Breq, sole survivor of the starship Justice of Toren, destroyed by an act of treachery. The twist is that Breq is an Ancillary’ — a cybernetically enhanced soldier housing the ship’s artificial intelligence.

Ann Leckie has been praised for her world building within the Radch Empire — do empires’ always have to be evil though? Initially I was somewhat sceptical that I might find it hard to see past the obvious shared DNA with Iain M Banks Culture novels and Star Trek’s Borg but these books quietly drew me in to their world.

(Speaking of Iain Banks; despite my not enjoying his later works as much, we were robbed of him and his talent far too soon.)

So, despite not being quite sure we would have Ancillary Breq without Anaplian in Matter, I was drawn into her world (all Radch are she’ regardless of sex). To my delight, these books turned out to be populated with believable three-dimensional and multi-faceted humans’ whose inner worlds, fears, relationships and challenges are described credibly.

The second book in the trilogy even switched the focus of the narrative from a soldier seeking vengeance to issues of politics and ethnicity with no appearances from the villain. A brave move for a science fiction series?

For me, it was the relationships between people (or lifeforms and intelligences) and the realism and natural humour of the dialogue that brought these books to life.

Now, go read the book!


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