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Who gets to decide?

Cover of Translation State
A review of Translation State by Ann Leckie

Though Ann Leckie's new novel involves larger issues of political intrigue and is set in her Imperial Radch universe, the story is a more intimate one of self-determination and how identity is formed.

Enae has spent decades of hir life as a companion and then caretaker for hir grandmother. When hir grandmother dies, sie discovers that a stranger has inherited everything. And while there is an allowance for Enae, the inheritor would rather sie removed hirself from the home (and even the planet). They give Enae a job to do that will take hir out into the universe. Enae is understandably uneasy about this upheaval, but the chance to have a purpose and a task that is only hir's? That's something sie welcomes. And soon sie is off to find a long missing (like for 200 years) fugitive. Hir travels take hir to an outpost and to meeting Reet.

Reet has an adopted family but has grown up with strange urges and no idea where he comes from. He keeps his head down and does his job, but knows there's something missing. When he's approached by activists who tell him he's the long lost heir to a powerful family? He's skeptical. But he likes the sense of belonging. What he doesn't know is that while the group is right in that his DNA does make him different, they're wrong in thinking he's fully human. Reet's connection to something other than humanity brings him to Enae's notice and then to the attention of larger powers that be. The revelations of just who and what he is may have an impact on whole worlds and empires. The question is, can Reet hang onto all that he knows about himself in the face of that knowledge and the pressure to be something else altogether?

There's a third character's point of view in this novel, Qven, but I think it's more fun if you get to experience them on your own. You don't have to have read the Imperial Radch series before this one, but if you haven't, be aware that Leckie's world building will immerse you from page one and it may take you a moment to get your bearings.

Mar 9, 2023