Series: The Imperial Radch #1
Published by Hachette Audio, Orbit Books on October 1, 2013
Genres: Adult SFF, Science fiction
Length: 13 hours 47 minutes
Narrator: Celeste Ciulla
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Winner of the Hugo, Nebula, British Science Fiction, Locus and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.Once, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.
There was a whole lot of interesting concepts going on in Ancillary Justice. Artificial Intelligence with feelings that could exist in multiple host bodies at once. These A.I. were originally intended to be space ships but as part of expansion and conquering other planets the Radch military would take some of the conquered people and turn them into “ancillary” vessels for their ship’s A.I. It was all really quite fascinating.
All the shiny and not so shiny
– The story follows Breq who is the sole remaining ancillary body for the A.I. That used to be the ship Justice of Toren. Having been destroyed she is determined to avenge the death of her crew. This part of the plot for me where it concerns emotions stumps me a bit because at times Breq obviously had emotions and then at others we’d get her inner monologue of how she had to pretend at emotions. So that always threw me a little as I didn’t know which way I was supposed to consider her. As capable of emotions or not. Ultimately I really think she was but her character due to the nature as an A.I. is cold and was hard for me to really get attached to as a reader. But by the end I was gunho for her.
– Artificial Intelligence that can exist in many vessels at once and then become autonomous while still being part of the original? I might not even be explaining it correctly but yes very cool concept – even niftier when you see it in action with the Justice of Toren switching perspectives from one of her ancillary vessels to another in quick succession as she does in a few scenes.
– Gender doesn’t matter for once because everyone is a she and ultimately you never really know who’s a he and she. Get what I mean? It’s all moot and I think a point is being proven here that hey – frankly my dear I just don’t give a damn. He/She can do the job just as well as the next He/She. I liked this aspect about the book even if it did confuse the bejeebus out of me at first! It definitely helped having switched to the audio version to keep everything straight.
– The bigger picture type of story. Do you like in depth world building and “epic” stories? Ones that have a lot of oomph to them but you have to have the patience to take it all in? Then this would be a selling point for you because the worldbuilding in Ancillary Justice definitely is one that you can take your time and savor.
– Flashbacks! This could be a plus or minus for me. I really liked the flashback portion of the book and found it really interesting learning about Breq as an ancillary and as a ship and the crew of her ship especially Lt. Awn. But every time it jumped back and forth it served to disconnect me from the story and slow things down for me.
– A character that didn’t serve much of a purpose to me until the end – Seivarden. He/She was just some junkie ex crew person from when she was a ship. She runs into him on a planet and he’s overdosed and she takes care of Seivarden for pretty much the entirety of the novel. This character doesn’t start being a real character and pulling any weight until almost the absolute end of the book and by then there isn’t enough time for any character development to have taken place so I wasn’t much invested in that person.
Baby it’s me not you
Originally I started off reading the print version and kept putting it down or setting it aside for more fast paced reads because it just wasn’t holding my interest. I came to think of this book as epic sci-fi. For some reason I’ve started to think of the word epic as synonymous with slow moving because I tell you this was a very slow read for me. Then I decided to switch to the audio version which totally solved the problem for me. Ultimately it was still a slow moving read as there really isn’t any action. That surprised me as I had expected a lot of action. But luckily the end hit me with a big pow and left me fully satisfied. I personally am content to just read this book and not continue the series as I think the style of writing and concepts while great just don’t suit me personally. I can see the great merit of the work and appreciate it but I didn’t love it because of its dry slow moving nature. Perhaps I’m just an adrenaline junkie and this didn’t give me the fix I was jonezing for. Either way book, it’s me not you. I can see many of your shiny bits and appreciate them but lets part as friends mmm-k?
Thoughts on the audiobook narration
There are some books that I attempt to read that just don’t click with me in print that I am better suited to attempting in audio. Ancillary Justice was definitely one of those books. Much of this had to do with the fact that the Radch peoples assigned everyone the feminine gender pronoun and it was easier for me to identify with the narrator Celeste Ciulla rather then attending to keep things straight if I’d read the print instead. She does a fabulous job at the narration and keeping the voices androgynous do you can slowly determine the genders. I definitely recommend the audio format if you’re having a hard time getting into the print book.