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  1. #1
    Registered User Jeroen's Avatar
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    Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. At p 194. Should I keep reading?

    I bought this book because it seemed to be right up my alley. I saw it recommended in many reader circles, and I love space opera and the books by LeGuin.

    I am at page 194 now and really struggling. So far, nothing much interesting has happened. Some local politics on a planet that was not very exiting to me, and Breq and Seivarden journeying through this snow planet. All good for a setup, but it could have been accomplished in half the pages.

    Also, the characters annoy me. Especially the relationship between Breq and Seivarden I do not understand. Why doesn’t Breq simply ditch the guy? Instead she keeps on telling herself that she “doesn’t care” whether the guy tags along and she keeps on being passive aggressive to him. The same with the lieutenants on the ship Justice of Toren, with their behind the back gossipping and passive aggressive quips.

    On top of that there is this gender gimmick, and I am not sure what I am supposed to get from that. It doesn’t add anything to the plot. I like to have a clear picture in my mind of the main characters but this gimmick keeps throwing me out of the story and creates distance between me and the scenes. It prevents me from getting involved.

    Will the story change? Is it worth to stick with it?

  2. #2
    Couch Commander Danogzilla's Avatar
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    I was loving it by that point in the book. It might not be a book for you.

  3. #3
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    You'll find some varied opinions here Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

    I am not a fan of the book.

  4. #4
    Registered User Pennarin's Avatar
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    Some choice revelations are soon to come concerning the boss of the Radchaai, and that annexation that one time that went wrong. That was the departure point for me, when it ceased to be boring and became awesome. Good luck.

  5. #5
    Registered User Jeroen's Avatar
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    I reached that point in the story now. It seems to pick up. I'll at least finish the book now.

  6. #6
    Registered User Pennarin's Avatar
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    In the end the only truly weird thing that was included that I couldn't crack was the nomenclature for the ancillary-crewed ships. What exactly is a One Esk One? There are Decade leaders on each deck of a Justice? What is meant by Decade?

    Hopefully she will give us an idea.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pennarin View Post
    In the end the only truly weird thing that was included that I couldn't crack was the nomenclature for the ancillary-crewed ships. What exactly is a One Esk One? There are Decade leaders on each deck of a Justice? What is meant by Decade?

    Hopefully she will give us an idea.
    It's been awhile since I read it, but from what I remember... Decades are simply troop divisions. For example: On Justice of Toren beneath the ship's Captain, there were a number of Decade Commanders. Under the Decade Commanders were his/her Decade Lieutenants. A Decade can be made up of either humans or ancillaries. One Esk was the ancillary troop unit commanded by Lieutenant Awn. I believe there were 20 ancillary units in most Decades, so One Esk One, One Esk Two, One Esk Three, etc.... One Amat One, One Amat Two, One Amat Three... You get the picture. In the field, One Esk is 20 bodies, but one mind. All the ancillary decades are simply an extension of Justice of Toren.

    Except for Breq, who was One Esk 19,
    Spoiler:
    but was severed from Justice of Toren when the ship was destroyed.
    Last edited by Jussslic; March 20th, 2014 at 08:08 PM.

  8. #8
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    I thought about quitting but I stuck with it and felt it was "ok" when I finished. My gut tells me that the writing evened out a bit toward the end, though I won't read it again to confirm this. I think the main strength of the book is that the narrator is not entirely an AI, and is acting on impulses coming from her human body, but that is never stated directly. Once I picked up on that, I was willing to finish. Unfortunately, the plot is a mess. The social consciousness is Le Guin, and the world building is Simmons and Banks, but Leckie's not yet at the point where she can really pull it all off, at least not with the editor she's working with.

    I gave the book considerable leeway because it's a debut. In my opinion it could've used another 100 pages to flesh things out, especially in the front third. The AI vs. human tension is so thinly drawn that it vanishes completely in a setting that lacks enough concrete details to give the least sense of place, let alone reality. I'm afraid a great deal of this book was left in Ms. Leckie's imagination, unwritten (or at least, unpublished).

    The gender confusion is an intentional challenge to the reader. It's a classic, 1960's approach to SF that I appreciated about the book - Leckie is aware of what she is doing. We need more stuff that rattles our cages in contemporary SF. The gender-bending is just not enough to carry the book by itself. It's too easy to let an idea's casual familiarity lead to the cynical conclusion that it has been done before, so it has been done completely.

  9. #9
    Registered User Pennarin's Avatar
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    Insightful thoughts, suboptimal.

    Thanks, Jussslic.

  10. #10
    I'm late to this party and bumping this thread, but I couldn't get into this book at all. It seemed extremely derivitive. The intelligent ships were straight out of Culture, and the gender/snow planet content was such a rip off of LeGuin that it must have been some kind of conscious homage, I hope? I didn't even make it 100 pages since a couple of people told me they loved it start to finish so I figured it must not be for me. I guess if you were captivated by the mystery of what an ancillary is, and the gender stuff caught your attention, I can understand why someone might be inclined to read it, but having seen both of those done before in famous, classic novels I couldn't see what the fuss was about. Nothing new coulped with an extremely slow plot and stolid characters was a complete turn off. It did remind me of a great short story though called Tideline by Bear that is AI done right, though, imho.

  11. #11
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    I ended up enjoying the book in the end, but I have trouble believing it was the best SFF book of the year. The ambition was there. In my opinion, the execution was not. I also found the gender stuff confusing. I get what she was going for, but it didn't work for me.

  12. #12
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Actually, it's the issues of multiple identity consciousness and competing philosophies over social systems concerning this (the sub-suming of people and civilizations, etc.,) that are the main focus and become more important in the later part of the novel, where the action ramps up as well. The gender stuff is just a side aspect of the world-building and not the main point of the story, except that it parallels how we today try to frame things via cultural and psychological identities and affects the style of the narrative. The gender issues have to do with how we read the story, but have nothing to do with the main plot, since the society Esk came from/is dealing with has no genders (but does have biological sexes.)

    Also, there were intelligent ships way before the Culture novels. It's a staple of SF.

  13. #13
    It's true that the gender thing does not seem to contribute much to the story. I think of it as part of the worldbuilding, to create "atmosphere". One thing that people complain about SF is that you get all those people living centuries in the future and they often seem to have similar concerns and ways of thinking to ours. The characters in this book seemed strange, and that's to be expected in characters living so far in our future.

    I thought the novel was interesting, but I agree that it's not "perfect" at all. I think it did come at the right moment, when there's much debate about the role of women and about gender issues in SF&F. I'd say the gender "gimmick", as you call it, helped it get a lot of attention. The world gimmick does not feel completely inappropriate to me, because I felt that the fact that the main character was unable to distinguish between male and female was always being emphasized and nothing ever came of it.

    Those shared-consciousness type of things were cool, though!

  14. #14
    I tthought this was a fantastic book. It took some work to get to grips with it, but it was worth the effort. I did not find it derivative of Le Guin or Banks.

  15. #15
    Has anybody read the sequel? Is it as good? Better?

    I wonder if it'll dominate the genre awards this year too, just like Ender's Game/Speaker for the Dead and Forever War/Forever Peace did (even though the latter pair was separated by more than 20 years).

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