Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
I picked up Ancillary Justice for my book club, and the synopsis made me curious. It is a story of revenge told from a viewpoint of an AI that was once a military spaceship and had thousands of AI soldiers linked to it. The book starts with one body, only one part of that AI system surviving and going on it’s own quest.
Being part of a trilogy, the book is set in a universe where a human race tries to keep up its supremacy through continuous military action. Its mission is to conquer the rest of the world and make it “civilised.” Some members of the Radch theocracy are pro, some are contra this idea. The indigenous peoples are understandable against it. All in all, the setup is old and safe, but at the same time boring.
The interesting part of the world building is the cultures themselves. Ann Leckie defines them mostly through their gender and use of pronouns. It is an intriguing idea to make all Radchai female. But she doesn’t go into more detail. How do they procreate? If they seem to have gender, why the only pronoun they use is “she.” I find her decision to use it not enough justified. It confused me and didn’t help me to emphasise with romantic relationships described in the book. I just couldn’t imagine the characters.
Another great idea followed the same path of becoming a hindrance. The AI viewpoint is amazing, but since it is supposedly a machine that looks at the human world, I found myself, again, disconnected from any emotions. I was a spectator, not a participant of the story. I wanted to know more about the AI’s relationship with it’s captain, but again, it was mostly described and in the end, I couldn’t understand why it was attached to her. The characters would benefit from a more thorough development.
The book is fast-paced and relies heavily on politics, which I, again, found very confusing. The point that the author chose as the weakest in the Empire was laughable to me and badly executed.
What kept me going and made me finish the 300 pages in three days? The AI point of view idea. If the author developed the relationship part of the story, it could have been much more engaging.