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Reading makes you smarter?

Cover of Ancillary Justice
A review of Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Recently someone asked me for recommendations for "intelligent" mysteries. Her description for these was "a combination of a dense, resonant setting with character and plot development that grab you but that are new and thought provoking; characters, attitudes, thoughts, insights you haven't read before but which strike a chord and reveal something about the world." That description helped me to help her find some books, but it also fits a science fiction title I read. Ancillary Justice is very well-written and complex. The story builds gradually and is layered chapter after chapter. The main character, the last ancillary human body of a warship called Justice of Toren, is initially fairly opaque and hard to read. And though the story is told from the point of view of Justice of Toren, that POV can sometimes be from that one remaining ancillary, or from dozens of ancillaries when we're seeing past events. All in all, not an easy book. And spoiler... I loved it.

Justice of Toren had been a warship for generations for the Radchaai empire. Among the ship's comlement of soldiers were hundreds of ancillaries. These were formerly people, often from conquered planets, whose bodies have been given to the ancillary program. When each is reanimated (so to speak) they become just one more node of the ship. They can be in multiple places at once, all acting and collecting information independently and all contributing to the ships memory and consciousness. In the present day within the story, the ship has been destroyed and there is one ancillary body left. That ancillary has all the knowledge and memories of its ship, but they are alone. And because they're alone, they're determined to bring to justice those responsible for the loss of all their others. This may sound too complicated, but Leckie made me feel smarter just for having read her novel. Whether that's really so is another question. But I liked that it challenged me and that I had to really settle into the world that Ann Leckie created to make it work. Available on Overdrive as well.

Jul 7, 2020