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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

Ancillary Justice

Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie This Hugo / Nebula / Clarke combo winner just demands to be read. I have been putting it off for a while on account of the price, new books cost more on the year of publication and I'm a skinflint. However, this book is just so damn hard to ignore. People keep going on about it in sf forums and now it is going to be a TV show! How am I going to keep up with the sci-fi Joneses if I don't read it?

Allow me to ramble on for another paragraph, I have a theory about sci-fi books which are suitable for new sci-fi readers. Some books are immediately accessible to people who have never read sci-fi before. For examples [b:Foundation|29579|Foundation (Foundation, #1)|Isaac Asimov|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1386922291s/29579.jpg|1783981], [b:Ready Player One|9969571|Ready Player One|Ernest Cline|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1406383612s/9969571.jpg|14863741] and [b:The Time Machine|2493|The Time Machine|H.G. Wells|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327942880s/2493.jpg|3234863]. On the other hand there are books like [b:Anathem|2845024|Anathem|Neal Stephenson|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1408246430s/2845024.jpg|6163095], [b:Embassytown|9265453|Embassytown|China Miéville|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320470326s/9265453.jpg|14146240] and [b:Revelation Space|89187|Revelation Space (Revelation Space, #1)|Alastair Reynolds|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1405532042s/89187.jpg|219037] that I think requires the reader to have cultivated a sci-fi mindset from having read quite a few books in the genre before. I think Ancillary Justice is such a book. It is full of neologisms and I believe it will be hard going for new sci-fi readers unless they are particularly intuitive.

There are a lot of wonderful sf-nal ideas in this book. The protagonist is an AI called Breq (among other names) who use to be a spaceship AI with multiple human bodies under its control. At the start of this book Breq is operating one measly human body, her spaceship body and other human bodies are all one. How this situation came about and what is Breq going to do about it is the main story arc. As for the human bodies they are nicknamed “corpse soldiers” so that should give you are clue of where they come from.

Another novelty is the usage of gender in this book, by default everybody is a “she” regardless of whether they are male of female. The gender of practically all the characters is undisclosed throughout the book though you may be able to infer some of them.

The book starts with a twin timelines of the present day and flashback, they meet somewhere after the middle of the book. I am not normally a fan of this kind of narrative structure but it is quite easy to follow here.

I have no real complaint about the prose style or the dialog but I cannot find anything notable about them either. Ann Leckie writes better prose and dialog than a lot of sci-fi authors, [a:Stephen Baxter|20295|Stephen Baxter|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1391280682p2/20295.jpg] for example, but somehow I find Baxter to be more lively. The book is also almost completely devoid of humor which renders the main characters almost (but not quite) unsympathetic. The friendship between Breq and former captain Seivarden is nicely developed, I particularly like the former’s gradual humanization. The book is never dull but sometime on the verge of being dull; the ending is quite abrupt and leaves me a little annoyed instead of wanting more.

I can almost understand the accolade and awards this book has been getting, there is much to admire here, and I have no regret for the time I spent reading it. However, I find it to be somewhat lacking in charm. This is another case of a book being recognizably very good but “not for me”, other titles in this exclusive category are [b:Cryptonomicon|816|Cryptonomicon|Neal Stephenson|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327931476s/816.jpg|1166797], [b:Neuromancer|22328|Neuromancer (Sprawl, #1)|William Gibson|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1285017005s/22328.jpg|909457] and [b:Blindsight|48484|Blindsight|Peter Watts|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1386924412s/48484.jpg|47428], so I guess it is in quite good company.

About 3.5 stars or 6/10 or some such meaningless measurement.