Monday, January 13, 2014

Staff Review: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie with an unexpected day off last week when the cold and a burst pipe closed the library on Tuesday, I did the only reasonable thing: read a great book.

Ancillary Justice is the first novel by prolific short story author, Ann Leckie. The wonder of this book is how Leckie created a story that was both familiar and unexpected. A character who is an AI, even an AI who is a ship, is a classic of the Science Fiction genre. What makes the story feel fresh is Leckie's attention to world building and characterization.

As a reader, I'm drawn to stories of grandly imagined, future civilizations grounded by the perspectives and experiences of a few characters, or space opera in the best sense of the term. Ancillary Justice is a perfect example of what I'm looking for when I want a space opera. Justice of Toren, a 2000 year-old war ship created by the Radch Imperium, makes for a compelling narrator: she is both an outsider and someone who knows the culture intimately.

The plot starts with Justice of Toren posing as a human named Breq as she nears the end of a decades long quest, and is unexpectedly confronted by someone she knew centuries ago. Through alternating chapters, you're introduced to the pieces of her past that have brought Justice of Toren to the frozen, backwater planet of Nilt. 

Ancillary Justice is a solid foundation for a proposed trilogy, and Leckie provides an intriguing introduction to a large and dangerous universe. From the complex internal politics of the Radch to the ominous threat of the alien Presger, I'm eager for the next book to come out. I've checked her website, and there's no date as yet, but that's what our Author Alerts feature is for.

If you're looking for something else to read in the mean time, I suggest checking out:

Ursula K. Le Guin's Hainish Cycle. Not a series proper, but a loosely connected collection of novels and short stories that give an anthropologist's eye view to the future. Start with The Left Hand of Darkness, which provides a similarly unique perspective on gender.

Iain M Banks's Culture series. With intricate plots and complex world building, it's easy for the reader to lose themselves in the Culture Universe. As an added appeal, some of the characters are vast AI intelligences (even starships).

~Sarah, Adult Services

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