March Books 1) Ancillary Justice, by Anne Leckie

has given me the idea of looking at the second paragraph of the third chapter of each book I read as a useful point of comparison. I shall try it out for this month.

The second paragraph from Chapter 3 of Ancillary Justice:

I unrolled the bundle of clothes I had bought for her— insulated underclothes, quilted shirt and trousers, undercoat and hooded overcoat, gloves— and laid them out. Then I took her chin and turned her head toward me. “Can you hear me?”

This book draws from a lot of sources – the quoted paragraph makes it clear that there is a debt to The Left Hand of Darkness, but I felt there was a lot of Iain M. Banks and some C.J. Cherryh there too – but really takes it all to a whole different level. Lots of big ideas here, of which the two biggest are that almost all characters are referred to by female pronouns, reflecting the narrator's perception, and that the narrator herself is one remaining human-shaped unit of a former spaceship-sized collective consciousness which controlled dozens of mentally conjoined bodies. There's stuff here about love, and colonialism, and some vivid set-piece descriptions of planets and incidents. I love Brian Aldiss's Philip K. Dick's description from thirty years ago of good sf being stories which are not about "What if?" but about "My God, what if…?!" and Ancillary Justice ticks that box. It is all carried off with tremendous assurance and control, and the fact that this is a first novel makes it all the more impressive.

It has already won the Golden Tentacle award for best first novel from the Kitschies, and certainly my vote will be one of those supporting it for the BSFA Award; and I don't think that will be the end of it.

1 thought on “March Books 1) Ancillary Justice, by Anne Leckie

Comments are closed.