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on 23 December 2016
Just finished reading the Imperial Radch Trilogy by Ann Leckie ...

I came to this serious tale very excited as it had won a boatload of serious Scifi awards. Reading through some of the reviews, it was described variously as fast paced, intricately crafted, and thought-provoking. Three books later and I am confused.

Fast paced it certainly isn't. I found on many occasions that it dragged on and on in almost excruciating detail, to the point where I started paragraph skimming just to get onto the next major event or detail. This sloth was further enhanced by an almost psychotic obsession with the preparation and drinking of tea; its aroma and colour flows through the entire work like an over-stewed river, to the point where I longed for a character to actually ask for a coffee instead. Quite why it is related to so frequently is beyond me.

Which is a shame because the ideas behind the story are quite interesting, so much so that I did persevere with the trilogy. I won't post any spoilers but the ideas of identity, personality, and what it is to be human are very well considered: from within, from the side, and from beyond our cultural viewpoint.

Elements within it drove me mad: justice, organisation, space travel, the nature of warfare and how the military would act. I felt that these elements weren't given the necessary detail and attention that a serious work of science fiction should apply. Someone described the universe as being a natural heir to the Culture of Iain M Banks, but that is wishful thinking so far off the scale as to be before the scale even came into being!

However, I can accept that these elements are just the background to the meat of the tale; in that, I did find that the author had created an engrossing and well-considered passage of time.

Recommend it I do but it is neither rip-roaring nor attention grabbing.
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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 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 4 June 2017
Considering how many good reviews this book as had. I was really looking forward to reading it.
I did enjoy it but found it struggle to understand it early on. And even a struggle to finish it. Which is a shame really.

So that may just be me hence a reasonable score for a reasonable story.
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on 3 April 2014
It's hard to dislike this novel, really. From the opening pages, it grips you into a compelling storyline that alternates smoothly between action and tension. The central character is fascinating; the last remnant of an AI used to controlling multiple human bodies - the feeling of being so badly limited, so badly trapped, is quite astonishingly well portrayed, as well as the feeling that Breq could be very easily led to making fatal decisions - so used to having multiple spare bodies.

The book also deals thoughtfully with the ethical nature of the Ancilliaries - the human bodies stripped of their minds and turned into machines. The AI, Breq, is juxtaposed nicely with a human character who's been wrenched out of time to provide a subtle exposition - an example of how well the novel is technically constructed.

I'm steeling myself for disappointment in the sequel - no sequel can live up to this beginning - but I'm buying it anyway.
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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 30 May 2017
Very complicated at 1st but stick with it.. it pans out to be an incredibly good book .. and a thought provoking future universe .. ann leckie breaks many rules.. gender, sentience and even individuality become vague .. but she still manages to make you care deeply about the main characters .. just excellent
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on 9 July 2017
Starting off a bit unclear but then having it all explained in little steps was a wonderful experience and made me unable to stop reading! Onwards to the second 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 20 January 2017
Loved this book, funny and interesting, the story is well paced.
It reminded me some of Ian Banks culture novels.
Now let me be to read the next one!
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