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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
I finished this book and did something I haven't done for years: I started over at the beginning. Several weeks later, I'm still thinking about it.

Leckie knows exactly what she is doing with her ideas and uses them to enrich the structure of the prose as well as the story. Particularly interesting is the AI's split identity, which leads to some beautiful...
Published 10 months ago by Sara

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and unusual
Breq is unique but she wasn't always. Once Breq was a spaceship, Justice of Toren, comprising thousands of corpse soldiers, each with a shared identity, one of many such vessels spreading the influence of the Imperial Radch around the Galaxy. Breq is now alone, her vessel destroyed, and she has only one goal - to take vengeance on Anaander Mianaai, the lord of the Radch,...
Published 8 months ago by Kate


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 5 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Ancillary Justice: 1 (Imperial Radch) (Paperback)
I finished this book and did something I haven't done for years: I started over at the beginning. Several weeks later, I'm still thinking about it.

Leckie knows exactly what she is doing with her ideas and uses them to enrich the structure of the prose as well as the story. Particularly interesting is the AI's split identity, which leads to some beautiful city-wide scenes handled with technical mastery. However, it's the characters that drove me to the second readthrough. Leckie vividly paints the central cast through the PoV of the central character, Esk, a strong and matter-of-fact voice with glaring emotional holes that become slowly obvious through her actions and through what she does not report. The settings are vibrant, the emotional arcs are like a punch to the gut, and the structure so well done that I kept intending to do chores but was unable to put the book down after the end of each chapter.

The only indication this is a first novel is a couple of pacing hiccups in the climax, but for me that would merely have knocked this book down from six stars. I have no hesitation in giving it five. Even though the story was satisfying on its own I am eagerly awaiting a sequel.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Space opera with a twist..., 16 Oct 2013
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If you're a fan of things like Ian M. Banks, you'll enjoy this one. With sentient starships and their humanoid avatars, this story takes a thought-provoking look into what makes a person, in both a figurative and disturbingly literal sense. One of those books I just couldn't put down, I blasted through this one in a weekend. Wholeheartedly recommended!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique, Strange and Addictive., 30 Oct 2013
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M. G. Chisholm "chiefengineer3" (UK) - See all my reviews
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Science fiction by it's very nature has many different concepts ideas and thoughts. After all when you have the universe at your keyboard why not? However much of it is derivative and repetitive. That's why I tend to read it in waves, because I'll OD on it and then lose interest for a while and then read other genres.

When I downloaded this I was just about at that stage. Probably if I had bought another sci-fi book I wouldn't have read it all the way through before I lost interest. However, Ann Leckie has done something special here. She has written a unique book in a tough genre to do that.

The four stars I gave this is possibly a little unfair when most of the book is a five star effort. This was for the start which was a little tough going as it deliberately left things confusing and hard to pick up. Even after reading the whole book I never really understood the sex of some of the characters. This is because it's written from the point of view of an ancillary to a destroyed space ship Justice of Toren who has no concept of the different types of humans. Everyone is 'she' and that means you have to think hard about the context.

Essentially the story is about the fracturing of an all seeing all knowing quasi-religious overseer who rules an empire of humans called Radchaai. It's an internal struggle where one part of the collective conscious is fighting the other part when both sides know what the other is thinking. It's mental chess. The ancillary of Justice of Toren, Breq, is after some revenge against losing itself because of the internal fight.

Once I fought my way past the first part of the book during which I almost put it aside I realised I was reading a book of rare excellence. Clever, well thought out, full of novel concepts and perhaps a bit of a dig at religion.

Very satisfying ending too.

Overall a book well worth a read if you want something refreshing and different.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Culture crossed with the Roman Empire, 20 July 2014
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P. G. Harris - See all my reviews
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Ancilliary Justice starts with its central character, who goes by the alias of Breq, on a wintery planet in search of a weapon with which she hopes to revenge events from 20 years previously. The story of those events is told in alternate chapters where we learn about a universe which is home to the imperial Radch, whose artificially intelligent starships control networks of telepathic soldiers, created from the bodies of those unfortunate enough to have been conquered and killed by these interstellar Romans.

Breq, it turns out, is one such avatar, One Esk Nineteen, last survivor of the troop carrier Justice of Toren. That sentence is indicative of two of the key features of author Ann Leckie's book. Firstly, that the ships control multiple avatars, all of whom are aware of what each other is/are thinking and seeing. Leckie handles the description of multiple viewpoints and rapidly changing perspective really skilfully. Secondly, this is very much a story of confused identity, as One Esk struggles to understand who and what she is. Crucially for the plot she and her like are not the only multiple entities in the book...... While the confusion created is intentional, it does occasionally step a little too far as, early on, Leckie rapidly introduces races, nations, factions characters, and interchangeable avatars at a pace which left this reader at least, somewhat disorientated.

As well as effectively describing the experiences of the multiple entities, Leckie gives the isolated One Esk a convincing, dispassionate voice, viewing the worlds around her in an unemotional, detached manner. While reading the book, one term which didn't enter my head was 'zombie', but in retrospect, that would be one way of looking at it. If all zombie stories are really about something else, Ancilliary Justice is a zombie story about identity and about what it really means to be human. Here it is One Esk, who, despite her origins, turns out to be the most human character.

In using SF to consider issues of humanity, Leckie joins a long tradition in which, of course, Philip K Dick is the dominant figure. He is not her only speculative literary antecedent. Early on, with its dominant society and intelligent spaceships, it felt a bit like reading about the Culture's dark, imperialist cousin, but by the end, with a seemingly impregnable empire, weakened by internal corruption, and faced with mysterious and faintly sinister aliens, it is closer to Stephen Donaldson's Gap series.

One interesting feature, which echoes both Iain M Banks and Ursula K Le Guin, is the ambiguous and shifting sexuality of the characters. This is society where language is subtly nuanced to express gender but where actual sexual identity seems difficult to determine. The default pronoun is female, but individuals are referred to as both him and her depending on circumstances. This usage gives the impression of a universe dominated by women, which asks questions of the extent to which language echoes, and/or reinforces the balance of power in society. If Leckie is saying anything about the effect of the dominant gender on society, it seems to be that it is of little impact. This is a society every bit as violent and competitive as a male-dominated one.

Finally, I loved the end. I didn't enter into this book in the knowledge that it is intended to be the first in a series, but it is, and that results in a culmination which is like a door being slammed in one's face, and a feeling of "Wow, what next".

In terms of sub genre this is closest to military SF, but it is definitely towards the intelligent end of the spectrum, a long way from ultra-violent, video game inspired, shoot-em-ups, and run of the mill Napoleonic-navy-in-space stories which seem to predominate these days.

This is not a piece of planet-shatteringly original writing, its influences are too obvious for that, but it is a step above the average, and as such, well worth reading.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and unusual, 2 Jan 2014
By 
Kate (Oxford, Oxon United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Breq is unique but she wasn't always. Once Breq was a spaceship, Justice of Toren, comprising thousands of corpse soldiers, each with a shared identity, one of many such vessels spreading the influence of the Imperial Radch around the Galaxy. Breq is now alone, her vessel destroyed, and she has only one goal - to take vengeance on Anaander Mianaai, the lord of the Radch, who exists in an almost infinite number of forms. Breq is also our narrator and it is through these strange eyes, this unusual perspective, that we witness the events that brought Breq to her single-minded purpose.

Ancillary Justice is an unusual novel, reflecting the nature of its narrator. Breq has lived in one form or another for thousands of years but in many ways she is socially naive. This expresses itself in her language. She can communicate with most races but not necessarily correctly. She doesn't readily know gender pronouns; everyone is `she' unless Breq is corrected. This has the rather peculiar result that we are not sure whether we are being introduced to men or women and, as we work this out, there are surprises. However, for me, this reinforced how little gender can matter when a story's narrator has far more basic identity problems to solve. While this use of the `she' pronoun has been an issue for some readers, it mattered little to me and I enjoyed the rare excuses for humour that it provided to the novel.

The novel opens on an icy planet with a moment of inexplicable mercy by Breq. She finds Seivarden lying in the snow, close to death. Seivarden had once been one of Breq's human crew members, many hundreds of years before, and there is no reason for her to be there, let alone still alive. Despite having no feelings of warmth for Seivarden, Breq picks her up and together they continue Breq's hunt for vengeance. The story then moves back and forth over a 19-year period, the years that saw Justice of Toren destroyed and the Radch divided.

Above all else, Ancillary Justice is a novel about identity and justice, set against the background of the Radch which conquers worlds by `annexation', a sanitised word for an inhuman process that leaves most people dead or emptied of life, becoming these corpse soldiers who police the empire. We witness the process of annexation on one planet through Breq's prejudiced understanding - there are acts of terror - but Breq is in the process of becoming one and with that comes other emotions, including loyalty, affection, heroism, selflessness. Not that Breq would necessarily recognise these qualities in herself. But it isn't just Breq who changes - Seivarden, too, alters over the novel and her journey is, for me, the most memorable and warming aspect of the novel. There are also events that strike out of the blue, shocking the reader as well as Breq.

There has been a lot of excitement about Ancillary Justice and so I was very keen to read it. It is undoubtedly an ambitious and original debut SF novel by Anne Leckie. It is also, I believe, the start of a new Imperial Radch series, although it stands alone very well. I liked the characters a great deal, I felt for them in this cruel world they had become part of and I was very intrigued by Anaander Mianaai - a split personality taken to extremes. However, the pace and story left me disengaged. Its sudden movements backwards and forwards disconnected me from events and at times I found it hard going. I was glad I persevered as I enjoyed the second half much more than the first but the style is not one to suit every reader, including this one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A tiny bit dull, 27 May 2014
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E. P. Schlaikjer (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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I was pleased to get this book at Amazon's recommendation, because it arrived when I came down with a bad cold, so I could lie in bed reading it. Had I not been sick, I don't think I would have bothered to finish it.

I like the idea of a human fragment of an AI, but it is under-used here. Remember the "look behind you" scene in 2010? "There was no hint of genitals … a chilling indication of how far David Bowman had left his human heritage behind." Breq's trouble with gender pronouns should have led to a plot crux or at least some humor, but instead it just confused me a little, and made me indifferent to who was in bed with whom. Multiple elements of a personality were better handled in the Vernor Vinge Fire Upon the Deep novels.

The ice planet was much better done in Peter Hamilton's magnificent Commonwealth Saga.

The Radch empire and its annexations reminds one a little bit of a bad empire in a Culture novel, but a whole lot less is going on, and the tech level of the Radch is surprisingly low. The fancy gun is in the shade of Iain M Banks's Lazy Gun or Philip K Dick's Zap Gun.

In recent SF, I was much more excited by Hannu Rajaniemi's Quantum Thief, and much more enjoyably perplexed by Toh EnJoe's Self Reference ENGINE. I continue to find China Miéville original.

What did I like in Ancillary Justice? The emerging humanity of Breq was nice. I always like AI heroes. The single thread of flashbacks was well handled. The musical angle was good. I am not going to keep my eye out for sequels though.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad but not great either, 24 July 2014
By 
John W (Shropshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ancillary Justice: 1 (Imperial Radch) (Paperback)
Maybe so many great reviews spoilt it for me - I was expecting something exceptional and it really isn't.

It's an OK story, set in a civilisation that's a kind of anti-Culture. The writing is a bit clumsy in places and the story a bit too convoluted. I didn't find it at all exciting.

Having said that, as a first novel it's promising, I didn't think much of Bank's early sf either. I'll read more by the author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Keep with it, 15 Nov 2013
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Mark Hearty "Mark Hearty" (Ireland) - See all my reviews
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The writing style is clunky to begin with. As the main character develops and the story unfolds her writing become much easier to read. This I assume was a deliberate and brave move. I put it down for a couple of day as found the start hard going before going back to it. I am pleased that I gave it a chance and would recommend that other do so . I think they will be glad in the end. Not a classic but a very good and though provoking read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply excellent, 28 Oct 2013
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A. Laird (England) - See all my reviews
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That's simply my opinion, of course, but I've been reading SF for ~40 years, and I reckon Ann Leckie has done a fine job.

Beautifully written, interesting characters who we learn about gradually as the story develops, and a sense of space and culture that has real depth. One of the strengths of the story is the author's ability to focus on what is concerning the characters, while letting the reader understand that there are fully developed civilizations out there, of which a great deal remains mysterious to us. If you are looking for gung ho space opera 'Ancillary Justice' will not be what you are expecting.

I'm relieved to learn that not only will we get the chance to learn more about 'Justice of Toren', but that it will take place across the strict limits of a trilogy (instead of rambling on until the horse is well and truly flogged to a stain on the ground).

Even if you decide this isn't for you I think 'Ancillary Justice' is well worth making a start on, and seeing if you don't get captivated.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New perspective to be welcomed, 26 Nov 2013
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There's a freshness to the storytelling in this novel that reminded me what great sci-fi feels like. The concepts are big, and expertly developed - and yet through all the sci, what this future comes back to is the problems of being human, of relating, of consciousness - and with richer characters than I've encountered for a long while in the genre.

I'll read another couple in this universe if Ann Leckie is minded to write 'em - but mostly I hope she spreads her wings and pursues the human condition wherever it takes us, and doesn't get trapped like Banks in a singular vision (however rich).
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Ancillary Justice: 1 (Imperial Radch)
Ancillary Justice: 1 (Imperial Radch) by Ann Leckie (Paperback - 1 Oct 2013)
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