I will often hear about an award winning science fiction book and think “I should read that, but I won’t because it sounds serious and boring.” That is what I thought when I heard about Ancillary Justice. Yes, I want to slap me too.
Two things happened that moved the Imperial Radch series off my “ought to, but won’t” list. One, Leckie loves Murderbot and two, all three audio books were available on Scribd during my free trial period.
I was correct that Ancillary Justice does not start off as a wild ride. It moves at a steady pace flashing back and forth between the time when Breq was the 2000 year old troop carrier Justice Of Toren and all of it’s ancillaries, and the present when Breq is the sole remaining fragment of the ship and it’s consciousness.
It seems very straightforward when I say “I.” At the time, “I” meant Justice of Toren, the whole ship and all its ancillaries. A unit might be very focused on what it was doing at that particular moment, but it was no more apart from “me” than my hand is while it’s engaged in a task that doesn’t require my full attention. Nearly twenty years later “I” would be a single body, a single brain. That division, I–Justice of Toren and I–One Esk, was not, I have come to think, a sudden split, not an instant before which “I” was one and after which “I” was “we.”
Eventually, we come to understand that Breq is on a mission, first to acquire a weapon and then to kill Anaander Mianaai, the Lord Of The Radch.
The Radch has been expanding through conquest, or annexation, for thousands of years. Ancillaries are made from the preserved bodies of people killed during an “Annexation.” A neural network is implanted in their brain which erases the person who originally inhabited the body. Ancillaries are also called “corpse soldiers” and are viewed as horrific by many. Aanander Mianaai has made herself into a consciousness made of many clones. The clones also have a neural implant that allows them to know what the other clones know, and what the ships know and the stations. But sometimes a person can be of two minds about something. When you have hundreds of clones, of two minds can become two factions working against one another.
I’ve watched Thor: Ragnarok a bajillionty times in the past few months. One of the most interesting things about the movie is the subtext that empires are inherently corrupt and unsustainable. Hela is Asgard’s brutal past come back to haunt it. She wants to return to the time of bloodshed and conquest. Like Odin, Aanander Mianaai wants to leave the horrors of conquest behind and become “a benevolent king.” Breq won’t allow the Lord of the Radch, or the Tyrant as she sometimes calls her, off the hook. What we learn about the Radch, it’s society and how it assimilates other people’s, is at the core of Breq’s mission for vengeance.
Half your anger is for yourself.” She ate the last bite of pastry and brushed her small gloved hands together, showering fragments of sugar icing onto the grass. “But it’s such a monumentally enormous anger even half is quite devastating.
At the end of Ancillary Justice, the cracks in Imperial Radch become fissures and Aanander Mianaai goes to war with herself.