Finally I got my hands on the third and final installment in the Imperial Radch trilogy by Ann Leckie. I wrote about the first two novels here, today I’ll delve deeper into the grand finale. Although “grand” might not be the most appropriate word…
The first book, Ancillary Justice, was great. Intriguing, mysterious, deeply engaging. A tragedy hidden beneath the flurry of clandestine activities of Breq – a mysterious, powerful stranger living in a world like no other, filled with intelligent AIs, memories of terrible genocides, slavery, sentient alien races and a multi-person evil emperor. Sounds cool or what?
The second part, Ancillary Sword, was not so good, but still decent enough to give me hopes for the third installment. Since it was supposed to be a trilogy, and no change of plans had been announced, I waited to see the grand resolution of the multiple story arcs, all converging in the overarching conflict between Breq and Anaander Mianaai. Unfortunately, I waited in vain.
Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie’s debut, literally made a killing in 2014, simultaneously winning Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke and BSFA awards. Leckie’s debut was long in coming – first drafts of what would later become Ancillary Justice were sketched back in 2002, and the book was written over a period of six years. The novel was worth the wait (even if nobody knew that they were waiting for something ;)) – Ancillary Justice comes across as a finished and polished work of art.
Superficially, it’s a story of Breq – a rather enigmatic and slightly detached individual, whose gender remains unknown, or rather unimportant, throughout the length of the story. And here’s what all and sundry’s already heard about Ancillary Justice: it uses only female pronouns in description of people. Everybody in Radch’s world is referred to as ‘she’ – because the Empire as a whole doesn’t consider sexes or genders as significant or consequential in any aspect other than being some strange barbarian quirks, hastily shoved into the box tagged ‘cultural diversity’. But a bit more on this later.
Radch is a galactic empire with – as all empires – an expansionist worldview. “Conquer, or be divided” should be its motto. As an epitome of a good SF empire, Radch has its own immortal tyrant, Anaander Mianaai. Or, to be more precise, lots and lots of Anaanders Mianaai, being one mind in literally hundreds or even thousands of bodies spread throughout the galaxy.