It shouldn’t be a surprise that a Hugo and Nebula Award winner is a good book. It’s actually why I picked up Ann Leckie’s gem of a novel, and I’m glad I did.
Let’s start off with the nerdy love I have for this book which starts oddly enough with the background. And what a background it is!
Ok that means nothing to you yet.
The Raadch are basically the Rome of space, but Rome in such detail and imaginatively thrown into space and space filled with artificial intelligence running ships full of animated corpses called ancillaries led by someone who makes the best emperor of Rome look like a little joke puppet.
It’s the touches to the way the Raadch run that really makes you see Rome in them. They make the conquered into citizens and adapt the Raadch way of life. They create a culture based of off progressively declining circles of patronage. And the majority of Rome… sorry the Majority of the Raadch don’t even come into the invasion but are rather happy on their Dyson Sphere.
It’s an empire driven by expansion that is slowly not expanding ever longer.
Any history buff would be drooling just over the similarities between the Raadch and the Romans. And it would certainly be something if she just took all of this to space without any modifications, but the additions and the nuances get even better.
She takes it into some amazing directions by creating legions out of animated corpses run by a ships AI system.
That’s just cool.
Soldiers not effected by hunger or thirst or desires, just sitting back and being run by ships and their officers. Officers all hoping on being granted patronage. Seriously brilliant stuff. Then the leader of the nation is some type of clone of the original with their brains wifi-ed together.
And here’s where it gets good.
All of this… It’s not described… It’s not explained. Oh the glorious thought! A book that doesn’t explain itself! I have never encountered Science Fiction that has anything like this except maybe something by Kurt Vonnegut. No, Sci-fi loves parading it’s background ideas and philosophy, and I love that about Sci-fi.
No, all of this was picked up by reading the story, by snippets around the characters.
This is the best part. The story.
The main character is a corpse soldier separated from her ship. The story evolves around Breq or Justice of Toren on a mission of vengeance against the Ruler of the Raadch. The whole story is about figuring out what happened to cause this separation and how such a soldier will pursue revenge.
It’s a who-done-it and a revenge plot all in one.
And as amazing as the back drop is… The story that’s where it’s at.