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Ancillary Justice    by Ann Leckie order for
Ancillary Justice
by Ann Leckie
Order:  USA  Can
Orbit, 2013 (2013)
Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Ancillary Justice is an impressive debut for author Ann Leckie, who tells the story of a human turned ship turned somewhat human again. When I heard about this one, I immediately thought of Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang, but this is a very different kind of story, though its heroine is also a singer and collector of songs.

In Leckie's universe, the Radchaii reign supreme. Ruled by Anaander Mianaai, they believe themselves to be superior to the lesser races in their ever expanding empire. They have long had a practice of preserving the corpses of conquered soldiers and using them as ancillaries to serve their will.

The story's heroine is Breq, who once was a starship, Justice of Toren. The starship's AI linked and controlled thousands of ancillaries, which allowed the group mind to be in more than one place at a time. One of these ancillaries, One Esk, is on a quest for justice for an officer she cared for, Lieutenant Awn. As we follow that quest, the backstory is gradually filled in.

We first join Breq at the 'back end of a cold and isolated planet' as she sets out to rescue Seivarden Vendaii, who had been (a thousand years before) an officer on her ship but never a favorite one. At first Seivarden is arrogant but their relationship gradually improves, as Breq seeks the only weapon that will allow her to kill Anaander Mianaai.

But which Anaander Mianaai? It seems that the ruler, who has thousands of linked bodies, is in conflict with herself. That battle killed Lieutenant Awn and Justice of Toren. Now Breq, 'the last remaining fragment of a grief-crazed AI', with Seivarden in tow, plays out a key role in this unusual civil war.

I liked the premise and the notion of linked ancillaries in this unique novel. But while I appreciated the motivation for the lack of gender (Breq refers to everyone encountered as she) in the story, I found it distracting and confusing. That aside, I look forward to reading what this talented writer comes up with next.

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