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Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1)
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BotM Discussion - SCI-FI > Ancillary Justice/ Overall Discussion - ***SPOILERS***

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message 1: by Kirsty, Jedi Master (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kirsty Cabot (kirstycabot) | 1884 comments Mod
I've started a spoilers topic so that I'm not in danger of giving anything away.

I really enjoyed the book overall, I loved the concepts that Leckie came up with and the way the protagonist spoke.

One of the main concepts of the book was the approach to gender. I found this really interesting, and although at times this made my imagination slightly confused when trying to picture characters, I didn't mind. Leckie obviously intended it.

This extends into the concepts of Individuality vs Group consciousness - and I found the conversations, events and relationships between the characters really interesting.

She doesn't seem afraid to broach the big topics - also going on to deal with ideas of "civilisation" being linked to the idea of being a "Citizen" and further to that dealt with the idea of religion being all encompassing, all knowing, fated etc. She manages to incorporate these big ideas without having to go through a huge amount of history to create the ideas.

I enjoyed the strained relationship between Breq and Seivarden, at times good, and times bad, at times nothing. I generally enjoyed the way Leckie wrote all of Breq/One Esk's relationships. Generally the whole way she wrote the story tbh...the more I think about it the better I rate the book!

I liked the way the book was laid out - jumping backwards and forwards through events. The time spans took a little time to get used to, but wasn't a big problem and enhanced it by the end.

Although there are many positives, I did feel myself becoming less interested by the end, which is a shame. I put this down to shifts in pace within the last few chapters. I felt the pace was quicker and more involved earlier in the book than it was towards the end and it didn't really hold my attention.

All in all though, probably a 4.5/5 opposed to a straight 4.

I reckon I would definitely want to pick up the next book.


Noel (classicanoel) | 10 comments I just finished the book and also really enjoyed it. I didn't have the experience of becoming less interested toward the end, though. For me, it took all my willpower not to disappear from work so I could go home and finish the last eighty pages.

I do think there are a lot of cultural things that went unexplained in the novel. Not that I feel overwhelmingly like Leckie needs to explain them--I actually don't mind the mystery so much. But a few things, like the intense reaction to bare hands, and the concept of clientage (which, for some reason, felt like it had sexual undertones or marriage-type implications...did anyone else feel that way?) were things I couldn't quite pin down.

But beyond that, I was engaged from page one. I really, really enjoyed Breq's character. Seivarden was prickly there for a while but did a turn around that was borderline surprising, but if you consider how much time actually passes in the book and how Breq is really the only person who gives a damn what happens to him, then it's less surprising, perhaps. But in all cases, I loved Breq's interaction with him. They were quite interesting together.

The idea of the Lord of the Radch being divided with herself was an interesting one wrap my brain around. I kept thinking of the people who are capable of playing chess with themselves, but on a much larger scale.

I honestly have to say that I loved all the ships. Both Justice of Toren and Mercy of Kalr were great, even though the latter shows up only toward the end of the story. I'm hoping to see more the Mercy interacting with Breq in the next book.


message 3: by John (last edited Feb 21, 2014 08:51AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

John (johnred) Just finished this one yesterday! I thought it was pretty good, but I probably won't follow up with the series. I was really into it in the beginning, I think because I was interested in the dual-story, with the flashbacks to Esk One's time in Ors...the comparison between Justice of Toren in her prime, and Breq struggling with only being one person.

After the flashback story ended, I found I was losing interest quickly. It turned into a pretty run-of-the-mill space opera.

I spent most of the time trying to work out what the heck was going on with Annander Miianai...The villan's motives seemed unnecessarily muddled to me. I mean, one part of her wants to stop Annexing other planets, and one wants to continue...but then there was something about destroying the Presger aliens...? Can anybody shed some light on that?

Oh, also: Why is Miianai the only human with Ancillaries? You would think everybody else would want to get in on that. I know I would. Or is Miianai not human? Maybe he's another AI?...I remember when I first heard about this book, I was under the impression that the Radch was a culture where ancillary bodies were common.


message 4: by J (new) - rated it 4 stars

J R After the flashback story ended, I found I was losing interest quickly. It turned into a pretty run-of-the-mill space opera.

Well the novel didn't last very long after the flashback is over, it just proceeds to an ending. And I think it's a pretty unique take on the space opera genre, very much character oriented, a lot more focus on social issues and less focus on technical issues.

but then there was something about destroying the Presger aliens...?

As I understand it, Presger is the reason Annander Miianai is split into two factions. He originally wanted to destroy the aliens, but once he saw the alien's power, part of him realized the empire just can't continue as it is.


John (johnred) Well the novel didn't last very long after the flashback is over, it just proceeds to an ending.

If I'm not mistaken, the flashbacks end with Lt. Awn's death, which happens right at the 60% mark. There is still 40% of the book left.


message 6: by Antonis (last edited Feb 27, 2014 04:17PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Antonis (antonakis) | 62 comments I just finished the book tonight and I find myself agreeing with Kirsty's view very much! For me that's an easy 4, or maybe 4,5. What I loved most and above all in the book was the way Leckie handled and described One Esk's general perception generated from the multiple ancillaries! Those sections, when One Esk and Justice of Toren along with the readers were getting info from multiple points and sources, were truly amazing and easily my favorites from the whole novel! I also loved how during the whole book so many tiny minutiae physiological details are constantly given and described and how the reactions of the main character depend on those data all the time!

If I have to name a negative, it would be that towards the end there's so much info and exposition that at some points it becomes a bit hard to understand everything.

I will write a review very soon and post the link in this post.


message 7: by Wayland, Ernest Scribbler (new) - rated it 3 stars

Wayland Smith | 2859 comments Mod
I found it an odd book (yes, just finished, I'm late to the party, my usually fantastic library got this to me very late and I'm STILL waiting on Mistborn). The main character was unique, the world building was good, all that was great. But the jumps in time were disorienting, the amount of time spent on not being able to tell genders was just weird.

Also, minor nitpick, but we hear so much about the Radch and their glove fetish, then we hear about how they have to wash before worship. Are they washing their gloves, or are they showing their hands, which seems scandalous if not obscene, just before worship?

It was an ok book, I can't claim I loved it.

I do give points for a very original main character, and the descriptions for its point(s) of view were very well done.


message 8: by Freya, Dragon Rider (new) - rated it 4 stars

Freya (flamecat) | 1810 comments Mod
Wayland wrote: "Also, minor nitpick, but we hear so much about the Radch and their glove fetish, then we hear about how they have to wash before worship. Are they washing their gloves, or are they showing their hands, which seems scandalous if not obscene, just before worship?..."

That is a really good point that I never considered! Perhaps it is washing the gloves, but then I suppose it depends on the material of the gloves - if they have some fancy futuristic glove material then washing gloves might not seem so odd? Who knows!


message 9: by Kirsty, Jedi Master (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kirsty Cabot (kirstycabot) | 1884 comments Mod
Just a comment that Ancillary Justice has won both the Arthur C Clarke Award and the Hugo Award for Best Novel!


Helen French (helenfrench) | 37 comments I read this one and loved it - but it was a while ago so I can't remember the details. I liked the concept of the ship's ancillaries a lot and the way gender was handled. I'll be interested to see where the sequel goes as I feel as though it won't seem as new/fresh as this one - but let's see! Also voted for it in the Hugos so v.glad it won :)


message 11: by Paul, A wanderer in unknown realms (new)

Paul | 3524 comments Mod
For any collectors I saw Forbidden Planet are taking preorders on signed limited copies of the sequel. I'm still to read this one sadly


William I have just finished Ancillary Sword, and read Ancillary Justice in July 2014.

When i was very young, almost 50 years ago, I read Red Planet by Robert Heinlein and my life was changed forever. I began to inhale books, especially science fiction.

Ancillary Justice did that for me, anew. The characters and hard science and emotional complexity, the mystery and wonder of many-bodies consciousness. All from a first-time novelist. Astounding.

Both books are 10/10 for me, everything I hope for in fiction and science fiction. For the first time ever, I found myself missing a character from a book, Lt Awn, almost as much as a friend from real life. She was such a fine person, and her senseless death brings Breq and the books to life.

Now I think I will re-read Justice, just for the sound of Breq's voice, and her view of the world around her.


message 13: by Lel (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lel (lelspear) | 1796 comments This was an interesting book. I found the idea of a ship being the main character very hard to get my head round but it worked. I loved the concept of the factions within one being fascinating (esp. as I argue with myself a lot).
I did find some of the book very confusing though. The jumping back and forwards in time with no warning was a bit of a mind trip, sometimes it would take a page or so before I could work out when exactly I was. And the character interactions were another confusing point more me, esp the idea of clientage.

Overall I liked the book, not really sure where it is going as a series though


message 14: by Ryan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ryan I finished this last night and wrote a review. It was more interesting than entertaining, and I agree with a couple of members here that it started much better than it finished.

As for the comments about hand washing in the temple, it could be that bare hands aren't themselves obscene so much as the context in which they are bared (i.e. religious ablutions are fine or something).


Jennifer | 22 comments Interesting review! I do seem to be in the minority here, but I loved the way the pronouns are handled. Though I know "they" is the preferred pronoun of some agender folks, I think that reading the entire book with they/them pronouns would have been confusing for a lot of people, and using 'it' would have been dehumanizing. Similarly, though, I think that using 'she' unquestioningly (without making the presence of male-presenting persons apparent) would have created the same problem I had with The Left Hand of Darkness, for example, where 'he' was the default pronoun (along with brother, King, etc) and so I imagined all the agender aliens as male. So Ancillary Justice was the perfect mix - it used she, but dropped in reminders every once in a while that 'she' does not equal female. In that way it was the first book I've read that really successfully challenged me to imagine/conceptualize an agender culture as (though hopefully not the last, I'm sure there are others out there I have yet to read).

It also makes the delineation between sex and gender in a very clear way - we tend to imagine monogendered species as only having one biological sex, whereas in Ancillary Justice there are still two biological sexes - but only one gender. Very interesting stuff, at least for me.

All that said, though, the gender/pronoun stuff is actually pretty low on the list of things I think are great about this book... It makes me sad how often discussion focuses on that stuff, when I think the themes of self-determination, and sentience and identity are the real crux of the story. I'm just the hugest Ancillary Justice fangirl and want to talk about aaallll the things, lol.


message 16: by Ryan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ryan Self determination and identity are indeed interesting themes in light of what is apparent about Radchaai culture. How is it possible that a culture that recognises the biological fact of two sexes would allow a situation where everyone is forced to conform to one gender? Maybe I lack imagination but I can't see how the number of recognised genders could ever be less than the number of sexes. I can see an argument for recognising more than the number of sexes but not less.

Anyway it's Leckie's world-building, not mine, and she's obviously happy with it, as are thousands of fans. That's the main thing.


Jennifer | 22 comments My bad, I misspoke in that post - I should have been saying 'agender' rather than 'monogender'! I wasn't thinking that one through. I'll try again: rather than having one gender, I think the Radchaii have no gender... so while sex is a biological fact, gender roles (and indeed the very concept of gender) does not exist within their culture. So basically, they view gender as a purely cultural construct and don't differentiate between people based on sexual organs, people are all just... people. That's what I took away from the book, anyway: I could be totally missing the mark.

I think being forced to conform to a monogender/agender ideal, whichever the case may be, is part of how Radch determinism and imperialist beliefs in their own superiority are conveyed, though. Since most of the annexed planets that we've seen so far *do* have gender I would imagine they are pretty unhappy about being forced into a society which does not acknowledge their identities - we see Breq struggling not to offend people by misgendering them. And we also have two culturally Radch people struggling with their identities after traumatic events - being split in two for Anaander Mianaai's and having her ship and other bodies destroyed for Breq - so I felt that seeing Breq's confusion over gender identity was another way of emphasizing that particular theme.

But naturally it's all up for interpretation. I've certainly had more interesting discussions about this book than any other book I've read in a long time!


message 18: by Ryan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ryan I don't mean to be argumentative Jennifer - I appreciate plenty of people (including Hugo and Nebula judges) see the merit in Leckie's speculation. It's just not something I can wrap my head around in the context of human (i.e. emotional) interaction - I understand sex and gender aren't the same thing but surely where there is sex there is also gender.


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