Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie is a wonderful novel. That it also happens to be Ann Leckie’s debut novel adds even more wonder as it is quite a book for anyone to have created.
Ancillary Justice is a quest set in a mystery/thriller set in a space opera set in a dual first person narrative. In the present, Breq, tells us the story of her quest to find a weapon with which she can fight the Lord of the Radch. We gradually find out what this means and who and what Breq is. In the past, Breq also narrates the events that led her to the present and we see what she was like. The flow of the book is done quite well with these inter-leavings and they each add to our knowledge of the story and the world that Leckie is building.
In the past, we learn (quickly) that Breq was once a part of a distributed consciousness. Her point of view is contained in multiple bodies all of which are ancillaries for a military star ship. Leckie explores this mode very well as we see a scene through multiple vantages but within a discrete tale.
Another very interesting story methodology used is that the language of the Radchaai does not usually use gendered pronouns. Breq has to make an effort to assign pronouns when she is in non-Radch space and her default mode is to use the pronoun she. I found this really interesting in that at first, I kept trying to figure out the gender of whomever Breq was thinking about. Eventually, I was able to relax my mental background processing and go with it, but it displayed how immersed our culture is in pronoun assignment. This, even more than the multiple-consciousness, really helped to underline that the Radch was a very different culture from our own. A very interesting and simple way of injecting a feeling of alienness into a story.
This was a very enjoyable book and I am very much looking forward to more of Leckie’s work. Highly recommended.