Monday, March 16, 2015

Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2) by Ann Leckie

Book two of the Imperial Radch series did give me answers to some of my questions from book one, Ancillary Justice, and because its written in a linear narrative it isn't as complex as book one. I also took notes so I wouldn't miss as many details as I am sure I did blazing through book one. Anne Leckie switches the character, Breq, using her point of view as a human, not alternating multiple points of view. In book one Breq is the starship, Justice of Toren, that connects her to thousands of human bodies turned into ancillaries with artificial intelligence and a 20-ancillary soldier unit called, One Esk. This story feels like it is setting up for the next book with little action and no battles. I was surprised because book one ends on a the strong possibility of a civil war, but that doesn't happen.

The world building is well done and the economy is explained, but I do think there are some holes in the author's description of artificial intelligence or they lack depth in explaining the mechanics that makes it hard for me to visualize how the systems work together. It might also be me. Science fiction can be hard to follow because the entire world is made up by the author. If the reader can't visualize it, then heck... that's a problem. Maybe if I read more of it I would recognize that the word, "decade," means a military unit or that implants in people control them and when removed it does not mean they die but become something else. Let's just leave it that... certain aspects left me confused and I don't know if it was the writing or my lack of sci-fi. That said, I still found the story engrossing. This plot is not as complex (hence, less surprising) and I missed the everyman character found in Sveivardan who does not have a prominent role in this book. As a result the story is weaker for me, but still entertaining. 

The backstory from book one is a thousand years ago, the Lord of Radch, Anaander Mianaai, takes over other planets in the galaxy annexing the people and forcing them under her rule. Those that resist are killed. In one instance Mianaai committed genocide against one planet. The Lord of Radch is an AI now ruling thousands of ancillaries and controlling outerspace populations. She is at war with herself for decisions she has made such as the genocide and seems to have split into two forms of justice where she is a dictator or autocrat. The result is a civil war caused by her and within herself. When the Lord of Radch needs new bodies she grows them and has thousands that share her identity. I don't quite understand how this works for it is different than how ancillaries are explained in the book. The Lord of Radch uses starships run by a single AI that uses host bodies of soldiers called, ancillaries, to control the annexation of a planet. These starships are being retired and becoming space stations leaving them unhappy with their new job. Breq was once a starship that the dictator side of the Lord of Radch destroyed because it doubted her loyalty. Breq's character arc is one that has been programmed to side with justice, but when the Radch dictator actions become contradictory and unjust Breq acts them out (as she has to) leaving her in grief and unhappy. 

In this book Breq is a human or One Esk ancillary nineteen. The autocratic Lord of Radch has made her captain of the ship Mercy of Kalr and sent her to Atheok Station where the threat from the alien Presgrs is a real possibility and Lieutenant Awn's sister lives. The Lord of Radch knows that it is the latter that will make Breq go to the station for Breq struggles with grief over Awn and must resolve it. While at Atheok, Breq uncovers a corrupt government and sets things right so that the people are united and not divided if an alien or civil war breaks loose at their doorstep. 

Breq is less interesting without Seivarden in the plot messing things up. Seivarden was the Everyman's person, the ordinary character that is thrust into an extraordinary situation who the reader can identify with. Hans Solo was the everyman character to hero Luke Skywalker. I find the everyman character rounds out the hero more. Breq gets a bit preachy at times as the politics unfold to show oppressed natives from an annexation that happened 600 years ago. The character Breq is AI so she isn't going to make many mistakes. She is able to see more than the human eye or brain can and plot twists are lost when Seivarden is put in the background. Lieutenant Tisarwat is not as interesting as Seivarden and I liked how Seivarden would mess up Breq's plans. I didn't realize how much her character pushed the action forward in the first book and it left a hole in the sequel.

As a character, Breq, is interesting because her emotions and stance on situations vary from others due to her artificial intelligence and being one thousand years old. She looks at justice with a perspective others won't have because of her longevity. She understands the unhappiness of the starships and life of an ancillary more than a human ever could and it gives her human qualities because she even deals with machines compassionately. The theme of justice is explored in depth showing the perspective of how a tyrant can justify her actions. The fun word play on gender is dropped and I missed it. I thought it lightened the heaviness of the plot and I enjoyed when the Raadchi gave clues as to who was what gender. Breq's discs with the holograms don't make an appearance in this novel and it is clear she doesn't follow a particular religion. I wasn't sure in book one. Her religious actions were for show. Part of Breq's character arc is to find redemption for her unjust actions against Lieutenant Awn. She seeks it in Awn's sister who understandably rejects Breq. The reader definitely gets to know Breq better in this book, but there is less action and a more straightforward plot. If you liked book one, then give this a go.

4 Smileys

No comments:

Post a Comment