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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 7 December 2015
Breq Ghaiad has a secret. She used to be part of a bigger entity, a ship (the space kind), called Justice of Toren. It gets more mind-boggling - she used to also be part of a hive mind AI that controlled the "corpse soldiers" on the ship, so-called because they were reanimated from the dead bodies of soldiers that the Radch empire (a dictatorial and all-powerful government on a mission to subjugate all surrounding planets) conquered or "annexed". As a battle starship, it means she is able to be anywhere and everywhere that each of her fellow ancillaries are. That gives her a certain omniscience in any action (at least when she recounts past events when she was still whole), that is really quite spectacular, and described in several instances and in colourful detail in the book.

Now she is just a remnant of the ship, and the lone soldier from the whole troop called One Esk. Out of that contingent, she was One Esk Nineteen, to be exact. Once the reader gets used to the mental gymnastics need to grasp the main character, the rest of the action flows quite smoothly and reels you in quite effortlessly. How she became just one remnant is something that unfolds, even as she encounters someone familiar, naked and face down in the snow, on an isolated planet far from the reaches of the Radchaai empire, and therefore considered uncivilised. That someone turns out to be Seivarden Vendaai, a lieutenant of the Justice (Breq the ship) a thousand years ago. In an unlikely partnership, the two embark on Breq's quest to confront the person who was responsible for her current state, and to resolve an action she had to carry out against her will twenty years ago.

Ann Leckie creates a complex world that bears just enough references to familiar structures like power and religion to make it all work, and the reader gets the sense that he is just getting a slice of a really big cake in this first of a promising trilogy. The 'genderless' universe (nonetheless by default female in terms of pronouns used) takes some getting used to, and potentially invites feminist readings. Questions about identity, selfhood and human nature, free will and mortality, are all problematised in this intelligent yet entertaining space opera.
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on 27 February 2017
Another new-to-me female sci-fi author from my 2016 reading list who pleasantly surprised me. This was my last read of the year and definitely one of my favourites.

As well as being a compelling story of galactic-level politics and intrigue, this novel is also a very clever reflection on how we define personal identity, highlights the fact that gender is a massive issue in our own world's cultures and explores how language affects the way people communicate. It also has an interesting slant on AI that I've not read a fiction like before.

I won't say too much more because I think this is a book best picked up blind on the specifics, but suffice to say that you won't regret it.
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on 21 April 2017
The good - the use of the female pronoun for practically everyone was interesting, the hive mind and last one left from the hive was great. The author enjoys politics and double dealing - quite complex and not easy to follow but I wrote some of it out and I think it's logical.
The bad - all the coincidences - arrives in the capital planet and bumps into people she knows all over the place, runs away to escape and bumps into ... The editing is iffy too (the "palace proper" turns up half a dozen times in only a few pages). I won't bother with the others, but if you're serious about SF you should read this
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on 25 March 2017
Clever, interesting, literate, low on flashy stuff but full of well realised characters and civilisations. Not a tech fest , instead a well written enjoyable, readable believable book.
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on 20 May 2017
Enjoyed it immensely (shades of the Culture Novels). Find comments on the lack of gender identification as an issue puzzling since it should be clear from the outset that it is how One Esk/Radchii see it.Well paced and the switching from past to present is handled well.
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on 18 May 2017
I'm still reading this but the next two are top of my to get list, and i'm having to slow myself down to prolong it. Stunningly good read.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 January 2014
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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on 3 April 2017
Very creative and entairtening. Maybe too complex at times
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on 17 June 2014
A fabulous world and culture has been brought it life. I don't think you will ever have come across a culture that the raaadch . Read this book!
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on 24 October 2013
Began this with the usual reservations about a a new author and found myself gripped by the story and the character from the first chapter. The use of the feminine pronoun for all characters is a bit unexpected - and makes one question one's own attitudes and preconceptions as the story develops but its never offensive or strident. The plot is well crafted and the alternation between the current and past stories is very well handled, giving great depth and a very real sense of anticipation and suspense to the story. Anne is obviously an author to look out for in the future and I will be very keen to see what she publishes next.I'd certainly buy it. I heartily recomend this book to anyone who wants something a bit different from the staple fare on offer.
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