Welp. Looks like I’m not done writing things after all. Actually feels kind of good. I’ve emerged from hiatus because I’ve been following the scandal of the Hugo awards. I hadn’t been reading a lot of SFF recently (been mostly taken with old spy novels) because I felt a little disillusioned with the genre. It’s already had so many scandals. But I’m not going to talk anymore about scandals.
I want to talk about how refreshing it was to read Ancillary Justice.
I suppose we can thank the scandal for getting this one on my radar. Because of the scandal, I looked it up and saw it’s been getting a lot of attention and winning a lot of other awards. I tried to look at some of the reviews but that experience can mostly be described with the following acronym:
Finally, we can thank my local book store for not carrying every installment of WoT (I was determined to get back on that train). So, standing there in the book store, about half an hour early for work but with nothing to read, I thought “Fuck it. Let’s see why everyone’s so excited about this.”
Turns out, everyone is so excited about Ancillary Justice because it’s really, really good. And super confusing. But mostly good!
Basically, Ann Leckie was out sick the day they went over pronouns in elementary school — or rather Breq, the main character, was sick that day — and so every single one is a she, even when the character speaking, being spoken to, or being spoken of, is not a she.
Also, Leckie decided: “Stories don’t start at the beginning and move straight through until the end. They start at the beginning and the middle at the same time. And then they race to see who can get to the end quicker. But they also perfectly complement one another so that comprehension of what is actually going on can only happen with both.”
And I’m convinced that this story could not have been told any other way. I wish I could have been there the moment she decided that’s how she was going to do it. I imagine she couldn’t wipe the smile from her face. I imagine that anyone standing around was like “Are you OK?” And she was like “Oh I’m way better than OK. I’m amazing.”
Ok, well maybe that was a bit much. But what’s important here is that Leckie really creates something unique in Ancillary Justice. And it’s not just that she plays with form (and apparently grammar), Breq’s mission and motivations are all incredibly interesting in their own right. Every character displays an uncommon amount of complexity, as does the vast universe they operate in. But Leckie doesn’t beat us over the head with that complexity. It’s simply there.
Needless to say, I’m VERY excited to check out Ancillary Sword.