Twenty years ago she was the Justice of Toren, a mighty starship with artificial intelligence. With thousands of ancillary soldiers in her holds she annexed whole planets in the service of the ever-expanding Radch Empire. Now, a breathtaking act of betrayal has left her with a single fragile human body called Breq, an unreliable drug-addled companion, and a lot of unanswered questions - questions she fully intends to find an answer to even if her quest will bring the empire crashing down around her.
Ancillary Justice is an original and thought-provoking science fiction novel that has, quite rightly, won almost every genre award going. The first third of the book is very confusing as you are thrown into the middle of the story with no idea what is going on. The chapters flip between the past and the present which was more than a little disorientating. However I'm glad I stuck with it because when the story did start to reveal itself, I was hooked. Likewise, the book goes slowly at first and doesn't seem to be getting anywhere but every paragraph is essential layering of different elements that eventually knit together and create a story which is complex, absorbing and intelligent.
The standout element of this book for me was the masterful way that Ann Leckie handled the major concepts of Ancillary Justice. I thought the multiple viewpoints of the Justice of Toren were handled cleverly so you got the impression of a vast artificial intelligence with thousands of segments but most of the story focused on the segment which would become Breq. It also was a cute way of being an omnipresent narrator while still staying in first person. The other concept that intrigued me was that the Radchaai don't emphasise gender so Breq refers to everyone as 'she'. As a result, I have no idea whether many of the characters, including Breq, were male or female. At first this bothered me, and then it bothered me that it bothered me. Like I said, this is a book that will challenge and intrigue.
At its heart, Ancillary Justice is a space opera with a unique protagonist and plenty to say about power, justice, free will, and what it means to be human.
Recommended For: Fans of character-driven science fiction that is less about the space battles and more about human nature.
Read On: Ancillary Mercy is the next book in the Imperial Radch trilogy. Another character driven space opera is The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold.