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on 17 September 2014
I am so glad I found this book. It took a little perseverance to get into, particularly the strangeness of the main character, Breq, and the use of female gender in almost all character references and conversations. But these turned out to be defining elements of the story.

I'm not giving anything away in saying that the "ship" consciousness (Justice of Toren) existing in a single "ancillary" has to be one of the most imaginative and effective plot devices in contemporary science-fiction, enabling first-person narration of past events from multiple simultaneous perspectives.

The interweaving of those multiple perspectives is handled with precision and never feels forced. The ancillaries of JoT One Esk and their relationship with "normal" human characters is fascinating at all times.

By the end of the book I felt thoroughly immersed in the universe it describes. It persists in my imagination, and I very much look forward to reading book two, "Ancillary Sword", published in October 2014.
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on 26 January 2015
I have to say that in the end I did enjoy this book, but boy it was a confusing read.

The first half of this book tells two stories, the current 'main' storyline and the back story from around 20 years prior, along with lots of historical references from the previous 2000 or so years. This is itself isn't too hard to follow, but this is all told from the point of view from an AI who has like a thousand different bodies all with their own designation even though they are the same being. Add the that the fact that the AI has some serious gender recognition issues; it all left my thoroughly boggled!

That is just the tip of the iceberg, with an imortal, omnipotent ruler who is at civil war with herself, a savage political landscape, and too many characters whose name begin with an 's', at times it was a bit of a slog.

But all that said, it's a fascinating story that is new and interesting. I'm tempted to buy the sequel but I'm in no rush to download it right away.
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on 29 November 2016
I bought this book on a whim at lunchtime as I needed something the commute home and was immediately hooked. Seeing some of the negative reviews here it felt like I was reading another book because I found it rich and compelling. the splintered nature of Breq / One Esk makes for an interesting and nuanced narrator that brings fresh life to first-person storytelling.

The gender issue seems to have confused many people but Radch is not a female-only society, it just makes no cultural distinction between men and women. This permeates the language, fashion and interpersonal relations of its inhabitants and so affects the world-view of our narrator. The exclusive use of the feminine pronoun forces the reader to confront this, if the male pronoun had been used in the way it would not have created the same dissonance in the reader.

If you can cope with the complexity of the narrative style then you'll find another great world builder in Leckie.
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on 18 January 2015
In a universe where a being can inhabit many different bodies all with the ability to function together and indepently from each other, what do you do if you suspect one part of another being may have committed a crime?

What if you begin to suspect that one of your own many different bodies may have been complicit?

Mind-bendingly beautiful. This book starts where some others have ended on multiple bodies. With computers ability to replicate itself this issue has been explored by other science fiction writers, namely, William Gibson in Idoru, Peter Hamilton in The Dreaming Void and even the multiple Agent Smith's in the second Matrix film.

This takes the subject much further. In the hands of someone less capable it could end up as a confusing mess but the subject is deftly handled and clearly written. It is understandablw how this book has managed to win so many science fiction awards.

Well worth a read.
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on 24 July 2014
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 Banks's early sf either. I'll read more by the author.
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on 1 September 2014
How to convince you of this without giving away too much of the plot?
The writing is crisp, well-edited, and moves along at a swift clip even though it tackles exposition along the way.
The book is somehow reminiscent of classic space opera, but in a fresh and innovative voice. One of the key themes you will take away from reading it would be around the definitions of personhood and assumptions about gender (actually, I think the first few pages will make the reader aware of such assumptions).
Think about a space-ship (or space station) with A,I that disperses among reanimated corpses to form a hive mind. Think about imperialist expansion, class war, government, philosophy. Think about substance abuse and action. Think about an all-singing (and I mean that literally), all-dancing instant sci-fi classic. To make a statement that this book brings sexy back to space opera might be exaggeration, but not by much.
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on 23 May 2015
Ancillary Justice combines some well explored concepts in a new and interesting way. With the exception of the strange, and seemingly pointless, focus on gender, I enjoyed the writing style. However, I did struggle with the concept of a society which has mastered faster than light travel, artificial intelligence, cybernetic implants, shared consciousness, etc., yet had an economy that relies on continual territorial expansion of habited planets. There were a number of similarly unexplained inconsistencies. The idea of a magic gun which can penetrate anything (to a certain depth only) but uses bullets also seemed an unlikely creation of an (even more) advanced culture.
This is not to say I didn't enjoy the book. I did. I shall probably read the sequel. I'm hoping it may fill in some of the many gaps. Unfortunately, the number of awards received suggested it was in a different league. I was expecting more.
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on 15 January 2016
I read a lot of SF and liked the fresh ideas in this book and, indeed, the main character but I did find it all a bit confusing. There seemed to be quite a lot missing on the explanation front, who was doing what and why, where did the main characters companion come from (found in street) what where the Radch actually trying to achieve in the universe, how the ancillaries actually worked/were controlled, why is everyone female, what is the thing going on with nuances of speech????

Reading it was a bit frustrating, like looking through a microscope and wanting to see a bigger picture, what was going on just out of vision that would join the dots. I am glad I read it and perhaps the dots get joined in the subsequent books but this one was enough for me.

There are some parallels with Culture novels but the late Mr Banks always explanained everything by the end of his books.
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on 17 June 2016
Completely cerebral reading. Back and forth thru time and memory.
Great intelligent story that you have to pay attention to. Not one of the run of the mill 'bang bang' 'pew pew' action scifi books that are being churned out.
Overall it's a brilliant bit of literature rather than scifi pulp.
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on 4 September 2014
Deserved Hugo Award winner 2014, Ancillary Justice is an intelligent, engaging read. It's the story of a single fragment of a destroyed AI warship, now seeking revenge on its destroyer(s), a single personality split out across thousands of bodies and the ruler of an aggressive, expansionist empire. Although the pacing of the finale is a bit off, and retro-engineered (I suspect) to set up the sequel, there's more than enough cultural imagination at play to make up for it - in both the incidental details of the civilizations and the social issues raised - along with some real skill with language. The obvious linguistic gimmick (she is the only pronoun in the putative language of the telling, reflecting that language's gender neutrality; a device clearly reminiscent of leGuin) is only one detail in the book's smart, sideways look at a slew of ideas. Nothing lifechanging, but recommended.
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