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Ancillary Mercy: The conclusion to the trilogy that began with ANCILLARY JUSTICE (Imperial Radch) Paperback – 8 Oct 2015
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If you don't know the Ancillary series by now, you probably should. Ann Leckie's sociopolitical space opera almost singlehandedly breathed new cool into the stereotype of spaceships trundling through far-off systems amid laser battles. ... [ANCILLARY MERCY] earns the credit it's received: As a capstone to a series that shook genre expectations, as our closing installment of an immersively realized world, and as the poignant story of a ship that learned to sing. (NPR)
Ancillary Mercy is the thrilling final volume in Ann Leckie's space opera trilogy which began with the only novel to ever win all three of science fiction's biggest awards: the Hugo, Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke winner Ancillary Justice.See all Product description
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Ancillary Justice was a refreshing, smart and interesting science fiction novel. Its sequel, Ancillary Sword, was a major letdown, a work that sprawled and felt at times that the author wasn't sure what direction to take the story. Ancillary Mercy, which concludes the trilogy, ranks somewhere inbetween. This is definitely a more directed, more focused work that rounds off the thematic elements of the trilogy more or less satisfyingly, but on a more prosaic plot level is less impressive.
On the character side of things, Mercy crystallises when Justice did so well and Sword occasionally struggled with: the interrogation of self, identity and self-realisation. Breq is a creation of the Imperial Radch, but she is not Radchaii and can view their culture from both outside and the perspective of one of its servants. The Radchaii believe they are civilised, but they are also intolerant and imperialistic, stamping their identity on the civilisations they encounter. They are baffled by the idea of ethnic and religious differences amongst their more newly-conquered subjects and resort to violence a little too readily. Breq - ironically - is a humanist who abhors violence when it can be avoided and seeks understanding and diplomatic resolutions to crises, which confuses a lot of her supposed "fellow" Radchaii.
This internal cultural examination is successful, but ultimately doesn't expand much beyond what we learned back in the first novel: the Radchaii should chill out and stop killing people, basically. Much more interesting is the examination of the nature of identity and the interrogation of the nature of both Breq and the other AIs. This leads to a bit of an unexpected plot twist that satisfyingly helps tie up the story at the end of the book.
That story, however, is not the story that many readers thought they were reading about: the war between the Anaander Mianaai clones. This doesn't really end or peak in the book, and carries on after the novel ends. On a thematic level this is quite understandable: the war has been going on clandestinely for a thousand years, so it being wrapped up neatly in three books covering a couple of years is unlikely. On a plot level, however, it can't help but feel that Leckie has left plot hooks dangling for future books (and more novels in the Radch setting are forthcoming), which is fine but feels perhaps a little disingenuous for a series marketed firmly as a trilogy.
At the end of the book there's a big climax and a smart and clever ending which makes the trilogy certainly feel worthwhile. It's an interesting, thought-provoking series. But it's also one that feels passive and inert for a lot of its time, with a huge amount of important stuff going on behind the scenes or resolutely off-page. It can make for a series that's hard to love but easier to admire and respect: Leckie is dealing with a lot of ideas here and doing so in a manner that's often quite subtle.
Ancillary Mercy (***½) is a worthwhile, humanist finale to the Imperial Radch trilogy, but it isn't the grand, epic and stirring ending that I think some people were expecting. It is available now in the UK and USA.
Provenance, the next novel in the Imperial Radch setting (but not a direct sequel to this trilogy), will be published on 26 September 2017.
However please note - this book needs to be read as part of the trilogy, it' would be difficult to make sense of it without having read the other two.
The continued use of the female pronoun, but linked to 'sir' mixes up gender in a way that is slightly unsettling. There's never any attempt to explain this or any of the intensely ritualised behaviours that characterise the society. Likewise the 'alien' comic relief is both familiar and profoundly different. There's just enough sense of menace under the bumbling exterior that the reader is left never quite sure whether she'll turn distinctly nasty.
The fact that I'm left wanting more and that I'm intrigued to find out both the history and where things move from here is praise enough. It's gripping without being edge of the seat stuff. A rare character study in a genre often too stuffed with action. Almost (but not quite) up to Iain M. Banks at his best. High praise indeed!
Now time for a cup of tea.
However, as can be seen in this book, the ideas on what it is to be human seem to have been thoroughly explored and any further books would no doubt be more like the standard adventures in space sci-fi novels. (I'd still buy them!). Perhaps she could consider collaborating with another author to continue the franchise.
I also look forward to see what else her genius imagination has to offer. No pressure Ann :)
My only gripe is that there are just three books. I want Ann Leckie to write another three, and take these characters to the heart of the Radch, to the Presters and the Rrrrrrrrr, and show us more of her astounding Universe.