Ancillary Justice is a science fiction novel by the American writer Ann Leckie, published in 2013. It is Leckie's debut novel and the first in her "Imperial Radch" space opera trilogy, followed by Ancillary Sword (2014) and Ancillary Mercy (2015). The novel follows Breq, the sole survivor of a starship destroyed by treachery and the vessel of that ship's artificial consciousness, as she seeks revenge against the ruler of her civilization.
Ancillary Justice received critical praise, won the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, BSFA Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award and Locus Award, and was nominated for several other science fiction awards. The cover art is by John Harris.
|Cover artist||John Harris|
|1 October 2013|
|Media type||Print (paperback)|
Audiobook (read by Adjoa Andoh)
|Awards||Hugo Award for Best Novel (2014)|
Nebula Award for Best Novel (2014)
BSFA Award for Best Novel (2013)
Arthur C. Clarke Award (2014)
Locus Award for Best First Novel (2014)
Kitschies Golden Tentacle for best debut novel (2013)
Seiun Award for Best Translated Novel (2016)
|Followed by||Ancillary Sword|
Ancillary Justice is a space opera set thousands of years in the future, where the primary galactic power of human-occupied planets is the expansionist Radch empire. The empire uses AIs to control human bodies ("ancillaries") that are used as soldiers, though regular humans also are soldiers. The Radchaai do not distinguish people by gender, which Leckie conveys by using female personal pronouns for everybody, and by having the Radchaai main character guess wrongly when she has to use languages with gender-specific pronouns.
The narrative begins several years after the disappearance of a Radch starship, the Justice of Toren, when the sole surviving ancillary (and fragment of the Justice of Toren's consciousness), Breq, encounters an officer, Seivarden, whom she had known 1,000 years earlier. The two are on an ice planet, and Seivarden is in precarious condition. The plot switches between two strands: Breq's "present day" quest for justice for the Justice of Toren's destruction, and flashbacks from 19 years earlier when the Justice of Toren was in orbit around the planet of Shis'urna, which was being formally brought into the Radchaai empire. The reader eventually finds out that the Justice of Toren's destruction was the result of a covert war between two opposed strands of consciousness of the Lord of the Radch, Anaander Mianaai, who uses multiple synchronized bodies to rule her far-flung empire. At the end of the novel, Breq associates herself with the more pacific aspect of Anaander Mianaai while waiting for an opportunity to exact her revenge.
The novel received widespread acclaim and recognition. Russell Letson's Locus review appreciated the ambitious structure of Leckie's novel, which interweaves several past and present strands of action in a manner reminiscent of Iain M. Banks's Use of Weapons, and its engagement with the tropes of recent space opera as established by Banks, Ursula K. Le Guin, C. J. Cherryh and others. He concluded that "[t]his is not entry-level SF, and its payoff is correspondingly greater because of that."
In the opinion of Genevieve Valentine, writing for NPR, the "assured, gripping and stylish" novel succeeded both on the large and on the small scale, as the tale of an empire and as a character study. Tor.com's Liz Bourke praised Leckie's worldbuilding and her writing as "clear and muscular, with a strong forward impetus, like the best of thriller writing", concluding that Ancillary Justice was "both an immensely fun novel, and a conceptually ambitious one".
Nina Allan's review in Arc was more critical: while she found "nothing lazy, cynical or even particularly commercial-minded" in the novel, she criticized its characterization and considered that its uncritical adoption of space opera tropes and the "disappointingly simple" ideas it conveyed (such as that empires are evil) made Ancillary Justice "an SF novel of the old school: tireless in its recapitulation of genre norms and more or less impenetrable to outsiders".
Ancillary Justice won the following awards:
The novel was also nominated for the following awards:
The novel was optioned for television in October 2014 by the production company Fabrik and Fox Television Studios. Leckie wrote that the producers responded positively to her concerns about how the ungendered, dark-skinned Radchaai characters could be presented in a visual medium.
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