Book Review: Ancillary Justice

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1) 
Published By: Orbit
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Page Count: 386
Source: Library
Audience: Adult - Science Fiction

Breq wants to kill the Lord of the Radch, the vast interplanetary empire she once served when she was the ship Justice of Toren. Yes, you read that correctly. Breq was once the artificial intelligence of a massive warship that controlled thousands of once-humans called ancillaries. Ancillary Justice is a revenge story that takes place in two time periods about twenty years apart. Leckie slowly and tantalizingly unfolds the story of why Breq is bent on vengeance. 

 I loved the spin of the main character having multiple consciousnesses. As I was reading, it reminded me of the pack consciousness of the Tines in Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep, though the Justice of Toren is orders of magnitude larger and more complex. Despite the strangeness of Breq’s position of having once been the AI of a ship and having had control over hundreds of ancillaries, Leckie did an amazing job of keeping Breq relatable. I certainly sympathized with her situation, and more than once wished I were able to control multiple bodies and see life from more than one vantage point at a time! 

The Radch, the empire in which Breq lives, is a profoundly agendered society that makes no distinction at all between male and female. Breq routinely refers to everyone as “she” even when the characters are not women. When she travels outside the Radch, Breq often is unable to determine a person’s gender correctly because conventions of dress, hairstyle, and mannerisms vary so much from planet to planet. I was occasionally confused as to which characters were actually male or female, but I think that made me connect all the more with Breq’s dilemma. 

 I adored this brilliant book and can’t wait to read the next one in the series!

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.