I was working the receiving department at a bookstore when this book came out. I got to see all the new books as they came in, and yeah, I bought way too many of them. Almost a decade later, I’ve finally gotten around to reading Ancillary Justice, and it was a darned fine book. Ann Leckie’s debut novel is a heck of a career launch, with several awards wracked up to prove it.
This is grand Space Opera in the tradition of the classics like Dune, Ringworld, or Foundation. Leckie trusts her readers to pay attention and let the story play out. She doesn’t spoon feed you with exposition or info dumps like too many writers. By the end of the novel, you’ve got a sense of the overall setting, but you’ve got to pick those details up as you go. The actual story of the novel is a fairly intimate tale, told by a character who is at once relatable and inscrutable. The Radch empire she comes from is at once familiar and strange. Because of her culture and her nature the narrator is an especially biased and possibly unreliable viewpoint on events. She isn’t even really Breq. Her real name is Justice of Toren, and she didn’t start out human.
The use of language and gender helps to add an alien immersion to it all. Again, thinking of Dune, a book about humans so far from where we are today they’re almost aliens, this book features people with deeply different views on life, the universe, and everything. And considering some of them live for a thousand or more years, it’s no wonder.
Fans of Science Fiction, especially the really big idea, out there type of science fiction of Larry Niven or Iain M. Banks, this is a definite must read. I’m very curious to read further in Leckie’s universe now that this has become a trilogy and she’s written some other stories in the same setting.