Tag Archives: Ancillary Justice

LitBeetle’s Top 10 Books of 2014

6 Jan

Another year passes and another ten trillion books made their weaselly way onto my reading list, but I managed to read 39 of them, so Sisyphus ain’t got nothin’ on me. It was a science fiction-heavy year, and this is a science fiction-heavy list, but I’m unapologetic! Bring on the Future! Of the books I read and reviewed in 2014, here are my top ten.

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10. The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe

Kobo Abe goes full Twilight Zone in this Kafkaesque novel about futility. In a nightmarish series of events, a professional man on holiday stumbles into a dune-side village and finds himself a prisoner at the bottom of a sand pit where he must continuously shovel sand to keep from being buried alive.   Read the Review   Buy the Book   Go to Goodreads

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9. Seraphina by Rebecca Hartman

Strong female heroine? Check. Compelling subplots of socioeconomic and racial differences? Check. Positive message about body image? Check. Dragons? Check, CHECK, CHECK. Rachel Hartman is building a beautiful universe with Seraphina, the first of this young adult series, filled with complex politics and shape-shifting dragons. Seraphina is a young court musician who must hide her mixed lineage from a bigoted society, but for all her efforts, the young resourceful girl still wraps herself up in a murder mystery and the deadly politics of two nations on the verge of all out war.   Read the Review   Buy the Book   Go to Goodreads

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8. Dracula by Bram Stoker

Twilight fiends beware: Dracula is not the inspiration for the glittering, abusive boyfriend of Stephanie Meyer’s blockbuster hit. This is the story of one man’s PTSD after encountering one of the most horrific predators in literature. If you don’t think you can handle the fear, the darkness, the soul-sucking solitude of Bram Stoker’s classic, don’t panic–Dr. Abraham Van Helsing will make sure you survive the night.    Read the Review   Buy the Book   Go to Goodreads

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7. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

 There are few things I love to read more than stories wealthy, entitled young people leading lives of wanton excess and torturing themselves with unrequited lust in the heat of the Spanish countryside while intoxicated on authentic leather skins of cheap wine, and in this highly specific genre of literature, Ernest Hemingway is king.    Read the Review   Buy the Book   Go to Goodreads

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6. Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

Three children witness the stars disappear on one fateful October night on Earth. Jason and Diane Lawton and best friend Tyler Dupree all face the post-Spin world differently, but their fates–as well as the fate of the rest of humanity–tie them together as they journey to discover how their entire planet was encased in a physics-defying dome.    Read the Review   Buy the Book   Go to Goodreads

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5. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

If there’s one person who can renew age-old stories of revenge, magic, and prophesy, it’s Brandon Sanderson. In Mistborn, the first of a series, Vin, a street urchin and bottom rung of a gang of con artists, wakes up to find her world changed when she meets Kelsier, a legendary Mistborn who can ingest metals and use their magical properties to alter himself and the world around him. Kelsier teaches the gifted Vin everything he knows, and together the two take on the seemingly immortal Lord Ruler and his oppressive Final Empire.    Read the Review   Buy the Book   Go to Goodreads

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4. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Don’t be fooled by the fact that it took me four years to read and I only happened to finish it in 2014. JS&MN is probably going to find its place among my favorite books of all time, because somehow, probably through some authorly incantations of her own, Susanna Clarke makes 1,006 pages fly by faster than a smoke break on a Monday afternoon. Mr Norrell takes up a personal mission to bring magic back to 19th Century England. His apprentice, the dashing young Jonathan Strange, takes up the same mission but with jarringly different methods. The two engage in the rivalry of all rivalries.   Read the Review   Buy the Book   Go to Goodreads

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3. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Criminal Minds meets Star Trek-level space-time continuum plot twists. Lauren Beukes’s dangerously enthralling crime thriller made its way to the top of my list for its originality, unique tone, and sheer entertainment value.   Read the Review   Buy the Book   Go to Goodreads

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2. Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

My penchant for creepiness extends to all areas of my life, but finding creepiness in a book is my favorite. John Darnielle takes a brief hiatus from brilliant songwriting to grace the literary world with his tragic and grotesque storytelling in Wolf in White Van. Sean Phillips creates a refuge from his horrific past in the form of a play-by-mail role playing game called Trace Italian. When two misguided teens become obsessed with the game, Sean must do what he fears most: face himself.   Read the Review   Buy the Book   Go to Goodreads

 

Of all the book review blogs in all the Internet, this book had to walk into mine. It’s the ultimate, bestest, most favorite book I read in all of 2014:

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Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

 No book comes close to generating the enthusiasm I felt for Ann Leckie’s Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning debut novel Ancillary Justice. In a fresh take on AI, Leckie tells the story of Breq, a human body inhabited by the last remaining ancillary of the massive artificial intelligence that operated a battleship and its soldiers. As she unfolds her past, Breq’s current mission of stone-cold space revenge becomes clearer and clearer. Leckie’s brilliant depiction of personhood and perspective come alive in this heartbreaking sci-fi saga about one individual’s terrible loss and terrible thirst for vengeance.  Read the Review   Buy the Book   Go to Goodreads

I’m looking forward to a new year and tackling the mountain of unread books that haunt my dreams every night. A huge thank you to my followers and visitors! LitBeetle would be nothing if not for you! Now let me know in the comments which books were your favorites to read in the great year of 2014!

Happy New Year from Seattle!

Happy New Year from Seattle!

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On Ann Leckie’s “Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch, #2)”

11 Nov

After receiving incredible reception for her first novel Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie very quickly turned out the Imperial Radch sequel Ancillary Sword. I’m guessing she’s just a greedy S.O.B and her Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Awards weren’t enough for her, because Leckie will most likely rake in a few more with this novel. Ancillary Sword continues the story of Breq, a ship’s artificial intelligence program in a human shell of a body. Once made up of hundreds of bodies that crewed a massive troop carrier, Breq is now a single body with a single mind, and that single mind has set her on a quest for revenge against the empire that destroyed her life. In a similar captivating fashion that made Ancillary Justice such a success, Leckie delivers an entertaining sequel that only serves to make me love Breq and her supporting cast even more.

After uncovering a millennium-old conspiracy that threatens to tear the Imperial Radch apart from the inside, Breq leaves Omaugh Palace on a ship of her own, now the Fleet Captain of Mercy of Kalr with Seivarden as one of her three lieutenants. Breq’s mission is to find and protect the sister of her beloved Lieutenant Awn Elming, over whom she spent much of the first novel lamenting. But when Fleet Captain Breq and her new crew arrive in the Athoek system, they are met with more dangerous conspiracy with an underlying culture of socioeconomic prejudices that stand between our AI hero and her goals. Between the hostile environment, sociopath heiresses, and an emotional baby lieutenant foisted on her by the Lord of the Radch herself, Breq has her work cut out for her. Luckily, she just happens to be the most badass ancillary in the universe.

Athoek Station and the planet below gains its notoriety for the high quality tea it provides to the Radch, an important commodity that separates the “civilized” (the literal translation of “Radchaai”) from the “uncivilized.” Foremost in the industry is Citizen Fosyf Denche who has a near monopoly on the tea plantations planet-side. The station governor and station security head Captain Hetnys seem to be in cahoots with the wealthy Fosyf, and all seem set on disrupting Breq’s plans, ambitious as they are. After all, Breq only wants to save Awn’s sister, bring socioeconomic equality to the universe, and defeat both factions of a warring, multi-system galactic empire, but for some reason, people won’t just let her do it.

On the tea plantations "downwell" on Athoek, the near slave-conditions of the Valskaayans are made clear to Breq.

On the tea plantations “downwell” on Athoek, the slavery conditions of the Valskaayans are made clear to Breq, and the discovery of missing Valskaay transport ships points to something more sinister.

Leckie stutters through an introduction as she brings AJ‘s story line back into focus for the sequel, and then proceeds to spend the majority of the book on a subplot of socioeconomic challenges on Athoek that has tenuous connection to the overarching–and much more captivating–plot of the conspiracy that threatens the Radch’s existence. AS seems to lack the same forethought and sophisticated plot design as AJ, which I attribute entirely to the fact that Leckie churned this sequel out a mere 12 months and six days after the publication of AJ.

Despite the plot structure feeling a tad wobbly, Breq is still a fascinating voice to read, despite the novelty of her nature as an ancillary worn off. Seivarden is still present but takes a back seat to Breq’s new supporting cast, and Breq’s relationship with them, her own unique voice, and the pervasive and captivating sorrow present in everything she does is all enough to keep AS successful. Leckie spends less time on building out the Radch universe, and less time developing the unique personality of Breq, who appears more like a kindly philosopher-king meting out justice and infallible wisdom to the less fortunate humans of Athoek Station, and spends more time with her social commentary and building an argument for socioeconomic equality.

The plot escalates as Fleet Captain Breq begins uncovering a case of bodies missing from storage.

The plot escalates as Fleet Captain Breq begins uncovering a case of bodies missing from storage.

Nevertheless, continuing Breq’s saga and reading the now-familiar cadence of her thoughts were enough to balance the unwieldiness of the plot flow, and there wasn’t anything in this universe that was going to stop me from enjoying more Imperial Radch action. The true tragedy of reading Ancillary Sword is it’s the harbinger of the trilogy’s end.

Rumors has it that the third book doesn’t have to be the end of the Radch, though: apparently someone bought options for a TV adaptation. But this is one book I don’t want to see adapted for any kind of screen. Unless, of course, networks suddenly give the green light to a bunch of beautiful, polyamorous, pansexual, androgynous astronauts being fabulous together, and I honestly don’t think this society is ready for that much fabulousness, which means they’re going to botch it and I’ll be the saddest girl in the world.

Read this book if … you read Ancillary Justice. Read Ancillary Justice if you’re tired of status quo sci-fi and bro-driven hero stories. Ann Leckie flips it upside down with the first installation of the Imperial Radch series, and Ancillary Sword is worth the read if only to immerse one’s self in the universe for another several hundred pages.

Don’t read this book if … you need to feel the g-forces of a spaceship dogfights or smell the singe of laser blasts. AS, like its predecessor, doesn’t get the heart pounding until the end (and then you’ll just about pass out from hyperventilation), and instead relies on its characters and the inherent mystery of the series-arching plot to carry readers through.

This book is like … few other books. I may not be well versed enough in the science fiction genre to compare this book to anything other than its own prequel, Ancillary Justice, because its characters are relatively unique and Leckie discovered a new way to discuss artificial intelligence. I compared the first Imperial Radch novel to Kazuo Ishiguro because of his similar style and penchant for stories of heartbreaking regret. AS is completely different, leaning more toward conspiracy thrillers.

I wanted to know what other beautiful things could come from Ann Leckie's mind. Wish = fulfilled.

I wanted to know what other beautiful things could come from Ann Leckie’s mind. Wish = fulfilled (mostly).

On Ann Leckie’s “Ancillary Justice” (Imperial Radch, #1)

30 Apr
Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie's debut novel, is the first in a long (*crosses fingers*), robust Radch series.

Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie’s debut novel, is the first in the hopefully long (*crosses fingers*), robust (*crosses toes*) Imperial Radch series.

Sci-fiction/fantasy is a massive genre that seems to be picking up steam in today’s media world. With the reboot of Star Trek movies and the soon-to-be rebooted Star Wars movies dragging viewers to the theaters, and HBO’s Game of Thrones conning normal folk into reading multi-book high fantasy series, nerdiness has never been sexier. Now, new blood and a wider audience is quickly transforming an arguably tired old boys’ club into a much more competitive and varied genre. One of the most exciting new, unique, powerful, intelligent authors on the scene is Ann Leckie, author of debut novel Ancillary Justice.

Breq, the novel’s narrator, lands on a frozen planet so remote that it’s beyond the reaches of the Imperial Radch. For Breq, this planet holds the key to her 19-year quest for revenge. Rage and sorrow fuel her, but this is her last chance, and she’s close to giving up. Leckie begins her novel with a captivating, barren environment and the pained voice of her protagonist who, as readers learn through the developing story, is not as human as she seems at first glance. Breq is the sole surviving “ancillary” of a ship’s artificial intelligence. Once part of a vast network of AI-possessed human bodies, Breq had the knowledge and experience of the 2,000-year-old ship Justice of Toren. An unthinkable betrayal leaves her with only one body left–virtually blind, deaf, and stunted. As Breq’s narration weaves through the centuries of Justice of Toren’s past, Leckie fleshes out a fascinatingly singular character who challenges what we know about intelligence, self, and humanity.

Justice of Toren is more than your standard robot fare. She embodies multiple selves, feels affection, regret, and guilt, and she doesn't stop changing and adapting through her long lifespan.

Justice of Toren, particularly Breq, is more than your standard robot fare. She embodies multiple selves, feels affection, regret, and guilt, and she doesn’t stop changing or adapting through her long lifespan.

Ancillary Justice employs–in more than just one way–my favorite technique in sci-fi/fantasy: making the familiar unfamiliar. Justice of Toren’s multifaceted sense of self mimics the idea of cultural identity, meaning Breq’s separation from herself/selves represents the soul-crushing loneliness of something akin to genocide, not to mention the tragedy of losing years of collective knowledge and memory. In a similar fashion, Leckie uses the vast entity of the Radch to reflect on humanity’s real history of imperialism. As I read descriptions of Radchaai “annexations” of entire planets and their rapid, ruthless but efficient spread across the galaxy, I couldn’t help thinking of Britain’s systematic drive toward world domination back in the olden days. Breq tells us that the word “Radch” translates literally to “civilization,” and “Radchaai” to “civilized.” Her memories don’t just address the motivation for her vengeance, but also her observations of the inherent dangers and bigotries of an imperialistic nation. AJ is, as far as I’m concerned (and, granted, I’m still a little starstruck), the quintessential sci-fi novel: a story line and setting that builds a creative, unfamiliar universe as a mirror to our small but infinitely complex lives.

The Radch shows numerous similarities to Britain's crazy empire days, from the aristocratic social structure to the presumptuous reeducation of indigenous peoples.

The Radch shows numerous similarities to Britain’s crazy empire days, from the aristocratic social structure to the presumptuous attempts at reeducating of indigenous peoples of propriety and civilization.

Read it if … you enjoy a thoughtful sci-fi novel. Not everyone does, and not every mood calls for discourse on socioeconomic inequalities or gender identity or the inherent human nature of human beings’ humanity. Leckie’s universe is gorgeously dark but also gorgeously unique, not to mention entertaining. So what if reading this novel takes slightly more energy than reading the Star Wars expanded universe? You will still love every minute of it.

Don’t read it if … you’re looking for a shoot-’em-up novel. Don’t be deceived by the pretty spaceships on the book cover. If you want non-stop action and nothing but the tinkling music of lasers interrupted only by snarky one-liners, this is not the droid you’re looking for. (Although, there was laughter and a couple of heart-racing scenes in AJ that I thought might make me cry.)

This book is like … the novels of Kazuo Ishiguro. A weird comparison, I know, but stick with me here. Ishiguro is one of my favorite writers of the pining, guilt-ridden, introspective narrator. Artist of the Floating World and Remains of the Day exemplify narrators much like Breq, narrators who must live with their own self-loathing and fear as their closest companions. Granted, Leckie uses more guns and swear words, but the parallel is present and makes me love Ancillary Justice that much more.

Expectations are set high, Ann Leckie. Let's see what else comes out of that beautiful brain of yours.

Expectations are set high, Ann Leckie. Let’s see what else comes out of that beautiful brain of yours.