Saturday, June 06, 2015

Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword

Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie, is a worthy successor to last years Hugo Awards best novel, Ancillary Justice. Breq, the protagonist, is a former starship A.I., a creation of the Radch, a sophisticated but cruel empire that doesn't use gender pronouns.

The Radch have found it expedient to use former humans as ancillaries, remote extensions of the minds that run their starships, convenient when they need to be in more than one place at a time. Did I mention the Radch were cruel?

When Justice of Toren is destroyed with malice aforethought, the person calling herself Breq of the Gerentate is all that survive's of Justice of Toren's intellect, a single ancillary pretending to be human.

Some of the kind of people that fear the feminists lurking under their bed see the Radch lack of gender pronouns as a weird culture war stunt, but as world building goes it isn't that much of a stretch. Estonian, Finnish and Hungarian all lack gender pronouns, and that's just the European languages.

Indeed, you could read the stories as a clever subversion of feminist tropes: the Radch have imperialism, oppression and sexual exploitation, but they don't even have a word for patriarchy.

It requires the usual suspension of disbelief required for interstellar empires, FTL, artificial gravity and decanting extensions of machine intellects into human bodies; in short, what is normally required for space operas.

Ancillary Justice

Ancillary Sword and another review by Lis Carey.

Night's Slow Poison is a 2012 short story set earlier in the same setting.

1 comment:

Andy Finkel said...

I hadn't realized the sequel was out; going to get it right away.