Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

Description:


The sequel to Ancillary Justice, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, British Science Fiction, Locus and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.


Breq is a soldier who used to be a warship. Once a weapon of conquest controlling thousands of minds, now she has only a single body and serves the emperor.


With a new ship and a troublesome crew, Breq is ordered to go to the only place in the galaxy she would agree to go: to Athoek Station to protect the family of a lieutenant she once knew - a lieutenant she murdered in cold blood.

Ancillary Sword  by Ann Leckie is the followup to the wildly successful Ancillary Justice.  If you have not yet read the first book in this series, beware that this review may contain spoilers for that book.


Justice won just about every award for science fiction there is, and rightly so.  It is a novel full of ideas about gender, consciousness, identity, power, and social mores. My only minor quibble with that book was that it could have been a little more exciting. If that is indeed a fault, it is one that has been richly remedied in Ancillary Sword.  Sword is exciting from beginning to end and full of the same sort of searching questions that made the first book so popular.


The events in Sword pick up immediately where Justice  left off. Breq is given command of a ship and sent to Athoek Station in system which was annexed to the Radch empire several hundred years ago and also happens to be home to the sister of the person Breq once cared about, perhaps more than any other.


I found Breq to be a hard character to warm to in the first book, but her continued development makes me like her more and more.  Her history as a former AI of a ship who is used to seeing through the eyes of hundreds or thousands of vantage points cleverly leads to a multiple first person perspective.  Her motivations and suspicions are closely held as is the chess game she is playing with Anaander Mianaai, the leader of the Radch empire who is literally fighting a civil war against herself.  Dancing around the edge of the action is the spectre of the  mysterious Presger.  An alien race far superior to the Radch whose motivations are almost entirely unknown, but whose power is not.


The characters in this book feel even more fully developed than in the first novel. The characters on Athoek station and the tea-producing planet below are complicated both individually and culturally. Leckie once again poses hard questions not only about gender roles and identity, but about justice. What is justice?  Is it ever black and white? How does the perception of what justice is change depending on your perspective? Whose responsibility is it to see justice done?


Ancillary Sword and the Imperial Radch series has the feel of a seminal work of science fiction.  This is a story you can lose yourself in and the questions it makes you ask yourself are almost endless.  You can enjoy this book on any number of levels. Expect to see this book on the usual list of award nominees this year. Wherever Leckie is going next with this series, I’m going along for the ride.  One of the best books of the year.  Highly recommended.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.