Hi again everyone! Today I decided to actually stick to my tentative schedule and try my hand at another review.
Awhile back my friend Sarah recommended Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie to me. She didn’t really tell me much, except that it played with gender in interesting ways. Well, I finally got around to reading it a couple months ago and lemme tell you, I love everything about this book.
The books starts off with the character Breq as she treks through a frozen wasteland of a planet looking for someone, saving an old acquaintance from a freezing death along the way. However, interwoven with this narrative is the narrative of Justice of Toren, a giant AI starship, who is also Breq, before the starship was destroyed. Confused? Don’t worry, it actually isn’t that confusing when you read it, as Ann Leckie is masterful at weaving these two storylines/timelines together, I am just bad at explaining it hahaha.
I don’t want too much more into the plot because spoilers, but I will say, I am super excited to read the next book.
Anyway, one of the most fascinating things for me while reading this book was how gender is handled. In the Radch, the militant empire that rules much of its corner of the universe, everyone is referred to using the pronoun “she”, regardless of biological sex or gender expression. At certain points during the book, certain characters biological sex is revealed, but since the pronoun is always “she” I had a really hard time remembering which character had which sex (not that I particularly cared, I just thought it would be interesting/could be important to the story to keep track, or else why tell us?)….and then after awhile I stopped trying to keep track at all. It was a really unique experience and I enjoyed it immensely. Makes me wish we all only used one pronoun for everyone.
Another interesting thing that Ann Leckie explores is identity. One particularly horrifying part of the story is just how Breq is a related to Justice of Toren (I don’t want to get into exactly how because, again, spoilers, but it has to do with suppressing or destroying someone’s identity to allow something else to take over….but is the original identity really gone?), and since Justice of Toren’s destruction, how she has come more and more to be her own person. Also, there is one character in the book literally at war with herself (no really, literally) because of a difference of opinion. So, can the different parts of herself really be considered to be the same person anymore? It’s so fascinating.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes space operas with AI main characters, enjoys when authors play around with gender, likes frozen tundra planets, and is ok with being slightly confused until things slowly come to light (and oh boy, do they come to light).