Audiobook Review: Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1) by Ann Leckie
This science fiction novel first came to my attention when I was looking into science fiction and fantasy with matriarchal societies (see the blog post here). Although Ancillary Justice is not set in a matriarchal society, it does have an interesting take on gender and that led me to researching other SFF books which handle gender differently or have unique gender systems. You can read that blog post here.
Ancillary Justice also intrigued me because the main character is the artificial intelligence of a huge spaceship called the Justice of Toren, who has thousands of ancillaries that she sees / communicates / takes action through. These ancillaries were once human but are now ‘corpse soldiers’ that only function with the AI of the ship implanted into them.
It’s seriously interesting how the point of view of thousands is communicated by the author and the knowledge that the AI possesses about each of her captains and people on board. The story tells of the Justice of Toren’s misfortune as she becomes just one soldier called Breq. Breq/Justice of Toren is out for revenge and the reader follows her quest to secure the means necessary to take it.
I liked the straightforward narrative of the ship’s AI, that displayed just enough emotion to make me warm to her but also not too much, so she still seemed not quite human. She is intelligent, fearless and determined as you would expect an AI to be, but also displays love for others, cunning and empathy.
Breq/Justice of Toren is part of the Radch empire and the intricacies of their culture and the worldbuilding was excellent. My knowledge about the world unfolds and the high-tech and sci-fi elements were subtle and never in your face.
Back to gender… The Radchaai don’t recognise gender and use the gender-neutral pronoun ‘she/her’ for everyone. Breq/Justice of Toren finds gender confusing on other worlds and occasionally misgenders people in the languages of other cultures.
This was a great listen as an audiobook, with the voice of Breq/Justice of Toren having just the right amount of inflection for it to feel like a not-quite-human machine. This space opera was not cheesy or over-the-top melodramatic. It was intelligent, subtle and eye-opening – I really enjoyed it!
My rating: 4/5
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