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Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1)
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2013 Reads > AJ: What was the point of Seivarden? (full spoilers)

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Daniel Eavenson (dannyeaves) | 127 comments The character of Seivarden seems to serve a very particular purpose and it's purely mechanical to the story. The story seems to need something for Breq to do as it muddles about in the present while remembering all the interesting things back in it's old incarnation.

Once the present catches up and all the flashbacks were done Seivarden become superfluous except where she serves Breq's plot for revenge. Of course that purpose is served in an entirely passive quality.

Could this book be better with out the Seivarden character? The more I think about it, the more I'm starting to think that it could be. I think a lot of my problems with getting into the beginning of the book was that all Breq had to do was take care of her new drug addict pet.

Of course you'd probably have a linear story with out needing to flash back to Breq and Seivarden wandering around. I don't know that I'd like to lose that level of complexity that the book does really well. Just wish there was a better reason to come back to the present.


David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments I think Seivarden does serve a purpose of highlighting the differences between an AI ancillary and a human. For example, Seivarden being in cryosleep for a thousand years to wake up to no ship means losing 1000 years of conscious continuity, while if One Esk had been in cryosleep for a thousand years she would not have lost any continuity of consciousness - at least while she still existed as a ship.

Also different is their responses to losing their ships.

Then there is the subversion of roles that Leckie plays with - when they arrive at the station Seivarden comes as a citizen serving a non citizen which would raise the eyebrow of any Radchaai because it looks like a non citizen is giving clientage to a citizen.

Then right at the end - Seivarden had been one of Justice of Torens commanding officers. Now Breq is the Captain while Seivarden is ranked under her. And then Seivarden a human seems to be falling in love with Breq who is not considered human. And that sets up the end where Breq - who used to be human, who then died to become an AI ancillary, comes full circle to being recognized as a human again.


So I for one liked the play on role reversals that Seivarden helps facilitate.


message 3: by Lindsay (last edited Nov 18, 2013 06:02PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lindsay | 593 comments I think Seivarden serves the purpose of exploring both Breq's humanity and lingering AI facets as well as giving an interesting insight into Radchaai culture as "she" has the dual perspective of a highborn Radchaai brought low.

As David says above, I think Seivarden is in love with Breq by the time they are back in Radchaai space. My rampant speculation on this is that Breq's inability to see herself as human leaves her completely oblivious to this.

There's also a really nice symmetry here, with One Esk's devotion to Awn in the flashback sequences (which Awn seems to be unaware of) mirrored with the exact opposite in the last third: Seivarden's devotion to the last surviving element of One Esk (which Breq seems to be unaware of).

So I don't think Seivarden is superfluous here.


David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments Lindsay wrote: "There's also a really nice symmetry here, with One Esk's devotion to Awn in the flashback sequences (which Awn seems to be unaware of) mirrored with the exact opposite in the last third: Seivarden's devotion to the last surviving element of One Esk (which Breq seems to be unaware of)."

Ooh - I hadn't thought about that. That is nice.


Tamahome | 6252 comments Am I the only one that keeps thinking 'Severian' from Gene Wolfe's Shadow of the Torturer?


Kevin | 701 comments I think Seivaarden is a pretty integral part of the book both for Breq's character arc (as Linday and David have pointed out) and as a tool to show the changes in Radchaai culture because of Minaai's internal conflict.


Daniel Eavenson (dannyeaves) | 127 comments I did miss that symmetry. A good point.

Ultimately that lead me to decide that Seivarden's example might be to show the inherent inhumanity of the Radch. The coldness and callous disregard demonstrated by the lieutenants and other officers represent the social programming that Anaander Mianaai has been doing with the creation of the clientage system. That created a natural expectation of interpersonal relationships to be dominated by impersonal economic relationships. The constant war stance created by the annexation and war through the corpse soldiers lead to a disregard for the human cost of such war in the face of efficiency and non-existent casualties.

Drop Seivarden, a product of that system at the height of it's operation, into a situation where the system can no longer support him(her, I forget which). It’s interesting that the author hides this collapse of societal support in drug use and addiction behavior. Or maybe I’m looking to deep and Seivarden is just a drug addict looking for a handout and can’t understand why he/she actually receives one.


Rich (justanothergringo) | 98 comments Lindsay wrote: "There's also a really nice symmetry here, with One Esk's devotion to Awn in the flashback sequences (which Awn seems to be unaware of) mirrored with the exact opposite in the last third: Seivarden's devotion to the last surviving element of One Esk (which Breq seems to be unaware of)."

Wow, that is a good callout.

By the end of the book, I cared more for Seivarden than I did for Breq. At the same time, I liked One Esk a lot more than I did Breq.


bookworm80 | 3 comments Every hero(ine) needs a sidekick (primarily because interactions with other living beings is one of the best ways to develop the character). I actually think the story could have been told from his POV since his history is interesting enough, with his 1000 years of sleep.

He's not static, changing from the drug addict struggling with the changing reality into a loyal friend. I don't know if he has romantic feelings for Breq or if it's more of an attachment to the only person who cares about him.


Adelaide Blair bookworm80 wrote: "I don't know if he has romantic feelings for Breq or if it's more of an attachment to the only person who cares about him. "

Yeah, I never got the sense that his feelings were romantic. More loyalty-based than anything else. (With more than a little self interest thrown in there.) It might be interesting to see how Breq would handle a romance, but I would be perfectly happy watching a real friendship develop.


message 11: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben Nash | 200 comments I've been reading some reviews and thinking about the book a bit.

Breq mentions a few times that she doesn't know why she helped Seivarden or why she keeps her around. Breq was unable to keep herself from killing her beloved Awn and sees in Seivarden and her addiction an opportunity, perhaps to make amends, but at least to understand. She wants revenge, but along the way starts to gain understanding through Seivarden.

Not sure if I'm being clear.


Edwin (edge1710) | 7 comments It will turn out that a third Anaander Minaai faction is hiding in Seivards subconscious. A faction that is more or less controlling the actions of Breq and wants the other two factions fighting each other.


Charles There are some problems with Seivarden. Her transformation from a shattered drug addict desperately clinging to her past social status into a champion of the new order who's devoted to her saviour largely happens off-screen (apart from the fall). Although it was clear she was changing, her radical outburst at Capt. Vel's tea party was a little surprising. Still, I think we can put some of that down to the rigid first-person view the novel uses - we don't learn much about Seivarden's altering world view because for most of the novel Breq merely regards her as an annoyance.

As others have noted, Seivarden is involved in multiple symmetries. After seeing Breq's devotion to Awn it's amusing to see Seivarden used as an example of the petty insubordinations that AIs can visit upon crew that they don't like ('This cuff has been torn for three days!'). But I'm convinced she has a deeper role.

'To the Radchaai, there were no coincidences.' And yet the book begins with the most massive and incredible coincidence possible, in which Breq stumbles across a person she'd last met a thousand years ago and who happened to be present at the event that caused Mianaai to go insane. I fully expect we'll be learning a lot more about Seivarden in the upcoming books. We've only begun to peak behind the curtain and I suspect that was no coincidence at all.


William Hello, all. I read Ancillary Justice and was enthralled. Superb, hard sci-fi, complex and nuanced, with characters deeply affected by their situations - just what I look for in good sci-fi.

In answer to the original post, Seivarden IS Breq's expression of humanity. Breq sees and feels the tragedy of Seivarden in herself, even though she tries to repress such thoughts.

The redemption of Seivarden is the redemption of Breq.


message 15: by Alejandro (new)

Alejandro (arivero) | 1 comments I had expected Seivarden to be connected to the gun. It could be even one of the arms used to destroy the ship where she was. Honestly Seivarden has more reasons to look for this gun that Breq.

Perhaps the connection was deleted during the creation of the book but it looks as a hole to me.


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