Genre: science fiction
Length: 386 pages
Setting: various planets and stations, far future
Interest: It won both the Hugo and Nebula in 2014 and I’ve heard lots of great things about it. I was in the mood for a science fiction book, and decided to finally read this book (and the rest of the series soon).
Summary: At the beginning of the book, we alternate between two storyline. In the present, Breq, an ex-ancillary from the starship Justice of Toren, is trying to find a gun made by the Presgar because it is invisible to all sensors and scans. Breq also helps Seivarden, someone Breq knew on the Justice of Toren, taking Seivarden along on the search. In the past, we see events unfold that led to Breq wanting the gun. Anaander Mianaai runs Radchaai space. After thousands of years and hundreds of versions of herself in various parts of space, Mianaai’s opinions are no longer in unison and she’s started working against herself. Breq confronts Mianaai and brings the conflict out in the open.
Final thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. By the end, I had a hard time putting the book down. I loved how the past informed the present. We slowly learn Breq’s current goal and, concurrently, why she was on that path. Breq seems like a solider on a mission who never deviates from it, but she’s pulled to help Seivarden without understanding why. It doesn’t help the mission. She never really liked Seivarden, and yet, she can’t let Seivarden ruin her life.
The idea of ancillaries was interesting. Ancillaries are essentially a human slaved to a ship. There’s no personality or free will associated with being an ancillary, and yet One Esk (the ancillary group where Breq was from) was the only group that sang. In fact, singing led to One Esk’s rebellion and Breq being sent off on her own. Mianaai though she had accounted for all the variables, but she hadn’t expected the ancillaries to have an opinion separate from the ship.
The last item to talk about is the gender assumptions in the book. In the Radchaai culture, gender is not acknowledged in general conversation. Therefore, Breq has a very hard time trying to determine an individual’s gender when she is outside of Radchaai space. Breq just assumes everyone is female unless otherwise contradicted. So, I’ve used “she” as the pronoun of choice, but that may not accurately reflect the sex of the character. You often can figure out whether the characters are male or female with close attention to surrounding characters’ conversations (in general, the book rewards the careful reader with little bonuses of information), but I mentally just defaulted back to she like Breq.
Title comes from: the narrator was an ancillary from a Justice-class starship.
Awards won: a slew including the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Locus Award in 2014
Reading challenges fulfilled: an A in my title Reading the Alphabet Challenge and #4 in my Maybe 100 This Year Challenge
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