Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

In 2014 Ancillary Justice won both the Nebula and the Hugo, but that’s only the beginning. It also went on to win the BSFA Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award and Locus Award. In a single year, it has become one of the most decorated books in the history of science fiction. Story Con Author William Hertling has a review.

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If you’re a fan of science fiction space epics, stop reading now, and go buy Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie.

I can’t recall whether I discovered Ancillary Justice because of the front cover blurb by John Scalzi, or this compelling synopsis:

On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren–a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose–to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.

It’s a really interesting premise with great execution. The story alternates two timelines, both told from the protagonists point of view. In one, the protagonist is the starship’s AI that controls both ship and thousands of human-bodied robot soldiers. In the other, taking place twenty years later, the AI has been reduced to just a single one of those bodies, carrying out her mission over twenty years.

Ann Leckie masterfully describes the underlying culture and politics, tying together both plot and cultural details and values. Although space empires are a common setting in scifi novels, making up an entire subgenre, the storytelling is fresh and wonderful.

William Hertling is the author of the best-selling technothrillers Avogadro Corp, A.I. Apocalypse, and The Last Firewall. His first novel for kids age 8-12, The Case of the Wilted Broccoli, came out this summer. A writer and computer programmer, he lives in Portland, Oregon. You can follow him on twitter or sign up for his mailing on williamhertling.com.