Author: Ann Leckie
Series: Imperial Radch, book 1
Genre: Science Fiction
Review: Ancillary Justice appeared so often in genre blogs last year and was spoken about with so much enthusiasm, that I was sure it couldn't possibly live up to the hype. I put off reading it for some time, but in the end I think the book both disappointed and exceeded my expectations at the same time.
The neat concept in Ancillary Justice is that the main character is an AI fragment. The Justice of Torren is a troop carrier that can control a host of human bodies -- one of these bodies is Breq, the protagonist of this book.
The book starts off with Breq on a faraway frozen world in search of a particular artifact that she needs in order to kill Anaander Mianaai the ruler of Radch empire. The story of her quest and her background is what keeps the story going, albeit a bit slowly at first. The ending is interesting and somewhat wraps up the story arch, but leaves a few plot threads going for the next books in the series.
What really worked in this book for me was the psychology of the protagonist. She really comes off as real and in a way very human, but in other ways clearly different. The author really pulled off the narrative from Breq's point of view and that is something that makes the book a real success.
Another distinctive feature of the book is that Breq cannot tell genders apart. It seems a bit odd, considering her sophistication in say understanding human emotions. The author explains it away as a cultural thing among Radchai. There are two genders, but no particular distinction is made between them -- the language doesn't account for their sex and the appearance is similar. Because of this, Breq calls everyone "she" in the book. The real fun comes in when you try to discern the real genders of the characters. I've seen many reviews that condemn the feminine gender use as a gimmick, but to me it was really interesting in that it drove home how genders define expectations of the characters behaviour. It was interesting to see how assigning certain actions to a certain gender and then finding out they are the opposite gender changes your perception of the character.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book and will most certainly pick up other books in this series at some point.