After following the silliness around the Hugo awards this year, I thought I’d read one of the books that all the fuss was about.
Ancillary Justice won the Hugo, and several other awards, last year, and is, supposedly, exactly the sort of thing that’s destroying good old, hairy chested science fiction. To hear the various Puppies tell it, this is one long feminist diatribe with no redeeming features and too few spaceships and rayguns. They must have been reading a different book.
This is intelligent space opera in the Iain M. Banks mould, with gigantic empires ranging against each other, but with individuals still able to make a difference.
The narrator is Breq, an artificial intelligence inhabiting a human body. She used to run a space ship and whole garrisons of ‘corpse soldiers’, but a betrayal has taken all of that away. As we follow her through the end of a twenty year quest for vengeance, the full details of the betrayal are also revealed.
I had some problems with the story arc of the main supporting character, but also got the impression that Breq wasn’t completely convinced by it either. Perhaps it’s something that will be explored in the rest of the trilogy.
The fault with the story, as far as the Puppies were concerned, was with the handling of gender. The culture that Breq is from doesn’t differentiate between the sexes. Everyone is referred to as her, or she. Not knowing who’s really a boy or a girl upsets certain types of fanboy, apparently. It’s a dumb thing to get so angry about, and I’ll take this sort of interesting feminism over yet another story dwelling upon fantasy white guys and the size of their guns.