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.
Ancillary Justice feels like the archetype of the massive vision science fiction novel… i.e., all concept, no character.
The first person perspective ensures that the only character we really get to know is Justice of Torren One Esk, but as a character, One Esk is a cardboard cutout. This is ironic as the setup would seem to make this narrative a great opportunity for a character study, but as we draw back the covers of One Esk, there just isn’t much there there.
As for the supporting cast, there’s little to recommend them, and in fact Seivarden is downright unpleasant for most of the book, with a mysterious turnaround partway through that I still don’t understand.
Now, the underlying concepts are somewhat interesting. The use of AIs and ancillaries creates some interesting narrative opportunities (confusing as they will be to someone unfamiliar with the ideas going in). Unfortunately, the story that unfolds is, frankly, simplistic: a basic vengeance story overlaid atop an Evil Empire backdrop.
At this point I can’t say I’m compelled enough to keep reading. I just don’t care enough about what might happen to One Esk or Seivarden or the fate of the Radch empire to carry on.
The comparisons with Banks are apt, here, as I found Player of Games was similarly plagued with dull characters, with the only difference being that the plot was interesting enough to keep me moving, and I wish I could say the same here.
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