Intelligent starships are one of those space opera tropes that never seem to go out of fashion. Most famously depicted as the immensely sarcastic Mind-driven ships in Iain Banks’s Culture novels, they’re a fascinating way of exploring the gap between humanity and artificial intelligence. This latest SF novel has an intriguing new spin on the concept.
Ancillary Justice is the story of Breq, a woman who used to be a starship. Two decades ago she was Justice of Toren, a law-enforcing vessel of the Radch Empire, able to interact with the world through multiple “ancillary” human bodies. Then the ship was destroyed as part of a complex plan involving the ruler of the Radch, and Breq is the only surviving ancillary – but now she’s close to finally getting some revenge…
A sharply written space opera with a richly imagined sense of detail and place, this debut novel from Ann Leckie works as both an evocative SF tale and an involving character study. Heavily reminiscent of the novels of CJ Cherryh, it’s also a strongly female-driven piece, tackling ideas about politics and gender in a way that’s both engaging and provocative. It may have a different flavour to many of the bigger UK-based space opera giants, but Ancillary Justice is a gripping read that’s well worth a look.
Saxon Bullock twitter.com/saxonb
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