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.
Ancillary Justice is the most expensive book I’ve ever read. Because of that book, I attended my first Worldcon, in London. (I didn’t know supporting memberships was an option!)
Ancillary Sword is very “second in trilogy”. Still nice, I won’t spoil. I have the third on preorder.
Hey! Thnx for stopping by. Doesn’t seem like attending Worldcon would be a waste though. Hoping it comes to DC in 2017 so I can go! We’ll see how Ancillary 2 & 3 go.
I started reading the free preview on Amazon, but gave up with the first mentions of the dinnerware sets.
I get the reference to 18th-19th century generals and military leaders who, by default were affluent members of nobility and hence entitled and expected to live with certain form of extravagance, and to provide similar battlefield living conditions for their captured enemy officers.
A concept that I do not think works at all while you are out there in space. Just consider how things tend to float around and otherwise act erratically. Hence any dinnerware sets not made of the hardest Tupperware plastic possible, pose a considerable security risk. For example you could drop a regular plate on the floor and watch how it gets splintered into a multitude of pieces. Now imagine that you are in space, and those pieces could fly in all directions, possibly causing damage onto the life support systems such as heating, ventilation and air filtering. You know, something absolutely disastrous when a human being resides within an artificial pocket of living conditions while surrounded by the harsh and unforgiving cold vacuum of space.
So… Does it get any better from that? Or does it require continued suspense of disbelief on my part?
I’ll be honest, I hadn’t even considered all of that. Someone would have to check, but I got the impression that when they where in space, the ships where big enough to have their own gravity which kept everything “on the ground”. Seemed to me that it was much the same as eating dinner in your own kitchen.
As for if it’s gets better from there, I’d like to say yes. Unfortunately, I don’t have much eye for detail when it comes to the practical implications of the science-y stuff.
I’m glad you made the comparison of the 18th-19th century generals. “Manners” do play a large role in the novel. And it’s interesting to try think about their implications. I don’t want to spoil the story for you but I’d say definitely give it another shot. 🙂
Tuomo: Or, you know, they might have artificial gravity or some other way of dealing with that problem. It’s the future, after all.
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