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Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1)
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2013 Reads > AJ: Was the Ending Satisfying (Or: Was Our Dictator Ultimately Benevolent?) SPOILERS AHOY

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Rob  (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments MUCHOS SPOILERS AHEAD TURN BACK NOW OR ELSE DESPAIR

So there was a major discussion before we began about whether or not we were ok with series picks, and it seems like the general consensus was that series picks are ok as long as they work as individual books- as long as the story is told satisfyingly by the end, rather than just setting things up for the next thirteen volumes. It seems like of recent picks, Curse of Chalion has been a good example of a series pick that accomplishes this, Ringworld an example of one that doesn't as well (but I lemmed it so I may be wrong).

So, we all know that Ancillary Justice is freaking awesome. It has great worldbuilding, interesting characters, and more importantly it is really experimental and thought provoking while it tells a really interesting story. It going to be an award winner.

But none of that indicates whether this was a satisfying book in and of itself, or whether it's just an interesting start to a story that will only be finished later. So, my question to you is: were you satisfied by the ending? (And a related question: Could you put down the series right now and be content?)

At the end of the book (and here is where the spoil spoos really kick in, fair warning): Breq has not yet accomplished here real goal, to kill Anander Mianaai. Yes, she says that she'd be satisfied with just shooting a couple, but the clear plot that has been set up is Breq's quest to rid the universe of The Tyrant. So we really don't have closure in the plot. It just sets things up nicely for the next stage in Breq's quest.

If the plot arcs aren't resolved, at least are the character arcs resolved? In my opinion, not whatsoever. Breq is still dealing with the loss of Awn, Seivarden is still dealing with early stages of giving up not-Opium, and their relationship is still in a pretty vague, unresolved "yeah we really respect and look out for each other now" kind of thing. So no real resolution there (and hopefully that resolution comes is something more interesting than "And then they totally made out).

All of that said, was I satisfied with the book? Did I have a sense of closure? Yes. Because by the end of the book even if the plot wasn't resolved, nor were the arcs of any characters, the status quo had been fundamentally altered. The universe is headed to open civil war. Breq is a starship captain. Any book that comes after this will be fundamentally different from this first novel, instead of more adventures in a lengthy status quo. And I think that major sense of change, that alteration, makes this feel like its own self-contained book rather than just a part 1 to a story.

Anyway. Thoughts?

David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments I was satisfied with the ending. It doesn't end on a cliffhanger. The main plot does resolve enough -Breq goes to confront Anaander and ends up accomplishing more than she set out to do - She never thought killing Anaander was possible and all her actions were more intended as an expression of defiance - I think. But she succeeds in getting Anaander to start killing himself.
I could leave it there happily enough. I'm more interested in all the AI's multiple perspectives and how Leckie communicates that than any of the sub plots. I'm also interested in learning more about the alien cultures mentioned in the story. So I'll be continuing the story for more of that hopefully.

message 3: by Adelaide (last edited Nov 16, 2013 02:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Adelaide Blair I agree with David that things were just resolved enough to be satisfying, but left open enough to keep me excited for more. And I say this after what I thought was a VERY slow start. This has ended up being one of my favorite reads in this club so far. I want to know what is up with Anaander, how Breq/Justice of Toren will relate with the new ship, and will Seivarden get it together. Also, I like adventure, gender studies, and space operas, so this was pretty much made for me.

Rick | 2869 comments You might want to edit the title about the dictator being benevolent since that, in itself, is spoilery and cannot be avoided by people skimming the threads.

On topic, the ending was fine.

Rob  (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments Oh, I'm referring to Tom. The discussion was entitled "benevolent dictator pick" or something like that. With regards to anaander, I think the question of her benevolence/just where the Radch falls on the dystopia/utopia line is brought up pretty early

message 6: by Rob, Roberator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rob (robzak) | 6892 comments Mod
It's always tough to end books in a series. This isn't the best I've seen, but it's far from the worst.

It was a good stopping point more than an ending, but I'd be annoyed if there wasn't more to come.

message 7: by Rick (last edited Nov 16, 2013 04:12PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rick | 2869 comments But endings like this are more realistic. After all, things don't really ever end, there are just transitions. Dune? Paul defeats the Emperor as assumes the title, but of course there's life after that. LotR? Sauron falls, but events continue after the Fellowship. And here... Justice of Toren is destroyed, but Breq continues. And at the end, the conflict between Anaander's sides is revealed for all to see and we are at a transition point. That transition feels natural (Breq has confronted Anaander, the conflict is in the open, Breq assumes command of a Mercy) and as a stopping point, it works.

Even as an ending it works, really. After all, at some point this series will actually end... but if it were real, Leckie's universe would continue. Perhaps the best recent illustration I can think of is Sanderson with Allow of Law, a series in the Mistborn universe that's 3 centuries after the events of the Mistborn trilogy. The world has not only gone on but the events that were so immediate to us when reading Mistborn are distant history to the characters in Alloy.

Andreas It was more like a short stories' open ending without the surprising factor: You've seen it coming a loooong way and then it was quite abrupt for the huge setup.

I mean, it isn't easy as "Grab handgun, kill tyran'" because of the tyrant's facetted egos and armor.
But the novel should really have been way shorter. For a novel of that length, there should have been more closure than what was given to us.

It felt more like a teaser to buy the next volume of the series - which I don't expect to do.

Rob  (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments Interesting! I hadn't considered that length might play into people's expectations, but that totally makes sense. Thinking on it, the only time that's been a factor for me personally has been Song if Ice and fire, and maybe the Kingkiller chronicles. and those are both things which I think most people would find totally unsatisfying as stand alone works rather than whole series.

Kevin | 701 comments I don't see how this book could've been any shorter. It is relatively short to begin with and there isn't an excessive sentence in the text. Everything in the book is relevant to show us how Justice of Torren became Breq and why Breq is on her current mission.

This is a character driven book through and through, there's barely any plot to it. It might be that you don't like that, but that doesn't automatically make it a failing of the book. Some things just don't have you in mind as a target audience.

I read a review (not on Goodreads) of someone who said that the editor should've forced the author to cut all the flashbacks since they weren't relevant to the story. He disliked this trend of poor editors indulging their authors. I can only look at bewilderement at such claims. Both for the arrogance involved to suggest that because you don't like something, it's automatically poorly executed/edited and for missing the point of the book by such a huge margin.

Mohrravvian | 99 comments I found the book very satisfying, but I would say that I would be less satisfied if I thought there wouldn't be more story coming later! Knowing that I'll find out more definitely adds to the enjoyment of this book.

I also am surprised that some people really were bored by the story, but I guess I should expect that... everyone has different taste. For me, I enjoyed the flashbacks as giving you a sense of what this AI Ancillary is like, how it was perhaps different than most of the other AIs, and it's motivation for wanting to kill Anaander. I think that it is a bit more character driven than many sci-fi or fantasy novels, but that is not necessarily a bad thing, as this genre is often lacking that important aspect.

Kevin Ashby | 119 comments To me this book did exactly what I wanted it to - I felt satisfied with where things ended but I also can't wait to see what will happen next. Great pick, but then I always love it when we choose a new author and not some old, rehashed pap from the 60's or 70's. (I'm old by the way if you were wondering).

David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments I particularly liked the irony at the ending when Breq is given citizenship AND clientage directly from Anaander - At least that is what I assume was the significance of assigning her the last name Mianaai.

message 14: by Rob (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rob | 33 comments The ending was very odd for me. A fascinating book, tackling issues of gender and morality with the background of an impending civil war in a ravenous empire with powerful menacing aliens at the gates. And the ending sets us up for a buddy cop drama: he's a fallen aristocrat a thousand years out of time, she's an artificial intelligence trapped in a human body, together they fly around the universe and fight crime!

Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 888 comments I'll be honest, I barely understood where the plot was going half the time. I didn't really start putting it all together until the last third of the book.

But this book had so many interesting ideas about language and gender and culture and identity, I didn't even care about the plot. While I like a good, fun sci-fi yarn as much as anybody, it's also nice to read a science fiction novel that takes aim at the heights this genre can achieve, and explore philosophical and scientific ideas from unique perspectives. In her first novel, Leckie throws out more interesting ideas than some authors do in a dozen.

Maybe the ending didn't give me all the answers. But it surely gave me a lot of interesting questions!

Kevin | 701 comments Rob wrote: "And the ending sets us up for a buddy cop drama: he's a fallen aristocrat a thousand years out of time, she's an artificial intelligence trapped in a human body, together they fly around the universe and fight crime!"

I'd watch that show.

message 17: by Nils (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nils Krebber | 186 comments I think it was a very interesting and satisfying ending. Not everything is resolved, but that makes it just more belivable. I hate books where shooting the emeperor defeats the evil empire.

This totally works on a standalone level. This is what happens when you shoot/drag out the truth about the emperor - Civil War. And you don't get to go home and ride into the sunset after that. People will still want to use you. I am not sure if I'll continure in the series, but it works great as both a standalone as well as an introduction to a massive, interesting universe.

terpkristin | 4190 comments For me, the ending couldn't make up for the rest of the book. In the end, I liked what she did and the ideas in the book, but the book didn't work for me and I wish I'd have Lem'd it. The funny/sad thing is, if the book had been written differently, with the action at the ending better interspersed through the book...I think I'd have enjoyed it much more.

message 19: by Rich (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rich (justanothergringo) | 98 comments David Sven wrote: "I particularly liked the irony at the ending when Breq is given citizenship AND clientage directly from Anaander - At least that is what I assume was the significance of assigning her the last name..."

I think that the most significant aspect of Anaander assigning Breq the Mianaai name meant she was formally making Breq a member of her family, to whom all the other families owed clientage. She's now a Captain and a Anaander family member, giving her a great deal of leverage to do whatever in the Hell it is she's going to go do.

My two bits on the stand alone issue: It didn't. It was very much Act 1 in the play. There wasn't a cliffhanger at the end, but there were certainly wasn't a definite ending either. I honestly wouldn't have bought the book if I'd realized at the time it was the first book in a series. My plan: I'll be waiting the several years for the series to finish, then I'll reread AJ and then read the other two right afterwards.

David(LA,CA) (davidscharf) | 327 comments terpkristin wrote: "For me, the ending couldn't make up for the rest of the book. In the end, I liked what she did and the ideas in the book, but the book didn't work for me and I wish I'd have Lem'd it. The funny/sad..."

Right there with you. In the past, I've given other books I've read a one point higher rating if they managed to pull out of the nose dive in the last few chapters. Here it feels more like a desperate attempt by the author to get people to buy the next in the series by showing she's capable of doing something other than ploddingly slow slice of life.

I feel like I should have LEM'd when our two main characters didn't leave a messy crater half way through instead of fighting my way through to the end because "it's so short".

message 21: by Rick (last edited Nov 24, 2013 11:24AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rick | 2869 comments " There wasn't a cliffhanger at the end, but there were certainly wasn't a definite ending either."

Reality doesn't provide many definite endings so, to me, books that tie things up neatly usually feel artificial.

Look at Dune, in many ways a typical "hero defeats bad guy" book... but the next books show that Paul's victory simply was a transition to the next set of events.

bookworm80 | 3 comments The ending was ok. Not phenomenal but not completely unsatisfying either. This is the type of a book I enjoy more for the journey than for the destination.

Fresno Bob | 584 comments I did not find the ending satisfying, and was unaware that it was the first in a series. As I said in my review, I think either House of Suns or Excessioncovered the primary issues in a superior fashion

message 24: by Rich (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rich (justanothergringo) | 98 comments Rick wrote: Look at Dune, in many ways a typical "hero defeats bad guy" book... but the next books show that Paul's victory simply was a transition to the next set of events..."

True, but Dune would still stand alone just fine even without the sequels, and I don't feel that to be the case here. The interesting thing about the Dune sequels was that they went off in ways completely unexpected from the first novel. Dune's sequels weren't necessary to the story in Dune itself. Sequels of Ancillary will be necessary. That's the difference.

Michael | 9 comments My only complaint about the ending was, it's a little to happy. Breq(et al) gets a dressing down for the mess she's made but other than that, folks couldn't be happier. The bad guys are on the run or dead, the good guys all lived sans major trauma, Breq is made whole with a new ship that misses her ancillaries, etc. I've learned this year that there is a certain amount of this that must go on but this really was a little too much of a package with a bow on top.

Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 1912 comments I found the ending completely satisfying. For me, the crux of the story was a) finding out exactly what happened to Breq and b) Breq confronting Anander Mianaai, and I got great pay off for both of these things. I only remembered there was a sequel when I was revelling in a post-awesome-book high, and then I actually felt a small note of disappointment, because it stands so well on it's own I'm afraid more will break it, though that feeling was quickly replaced with excitement at remembering this means there will be more to read. Which is a good thing.

Bryan Alexander I take the point about life moving on past a plot's resolution. Remember in Watchmen, when Dr. Manhattan confronts Ozymandias about "nothing ever ends"?

But interstellar civil war! The book didn't seem to take this altogether seriously. The lord of the Radch seemed a bit cavalier about this at times, but that's not surprising, given his perspective and immortality. I thought Breq and friends would have been horrified, and that the book would have considered this outcome a terrible tragedy.

message 28: by Tamahome (last edited Jun 05, 2014 05:26AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tamahome | 6352 comments It's been a while since I've read it, but I remember the ending being like (view spoiler)

Bryan Alexander I also like the first half. Well, the first 2/3rds, when the two narrative lines are taking turns.

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