Off Topic

Off Topic on Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Back by popular*** demand, it’s another off topic! I’m using today’s prompt to ramble about the last book I read because I’m about five years too late and I have to dump my thoughts on it somewhere.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie is overall a good book. I like science fiction that’s light on the actual science as long as the world-building is still very engaging and it delivers on that pretty deftly. I heard a lot of good things about the book’s hook beforehand, which is that the language spoken by the protagonist doesn’t have words for different genders so everyone is referred to as ‘her.’ Before reading, I was worried this would be too gimmicky, but happy to report that it actually added to my enjoyment of the dynamic between most of the characters. A lot of people who read it when it was first published have already said it but here it is again from me, some lame-ass who reads the books that win all the awards years later, it reminded me quite a bit of The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin. But also, it reminded me of some of the best (and worst) entries in Iain M. Bank’s Culture series. Ship AIs, Ship avatars (ancillaries here), ability to make multiple copies of oneself, etc. The protagonist’s name and motivation throughout the novel are both reminiscent of the name and motivation of the protagonist from the worst of the culture novels in my honest opinion – Surface Detail. I read a post by the author saying she knew little about the culture series before beginning work on Ancillary Justice which is good because I can’t stress enough how much Surface Detail was a huge let down and I hate to think how it would’ve influenced anyone wanting to write a book with similar themes and character motivations.

Now for the bad. The nice, breezy prose kinda sneakily hides the fact that the main plot concerning the protagonist and the target of her revenge plot loses momentum and at times becomes difficult to follow about two-thirds through the novel. It was probably around this point, I decided I’d just relegate that stuff to background because I was already enjoying the dynamic between the protagonist and her disgruntled sidekick a lot more. A lot more than most people who read the book from what I skimmed on its goodreads page. It’s a cliche at this point to say the best sci-fi should be about recognizably human stories at the end of the day but here it’s mostly what kept me going once the main plot seemed to become muddled and run out of steam. Central to the secondary plot is a story of an addict trying to get clean and relying on the one person who shouldn’t trust her or care anymore but still does. It helped me enjoy the book a lot more once I realized I didn’t care all that much about the many twist and turns of the protagonist’s revenge plot past a certain point.

Overall, a good, if not great read. I might pick up the next book in the series but I’m in no rush to right now.

With that, here’s your infrequent off-topic post to fill with details about whatever’s on your mind.