Book review: Ancillary Sword

Well I am inconsolable because I no longer have that book to read. IT IS SO GOOD.

I think there are three main reasons why I love this series:

  • I love the preciseness of all the rituals and formalities
  • I love the artificial intelligences that populate the books
  • Breq is such an awesome character, she is so badass

I think the formalities allow such excellent character development and also tension between the different characters. It is polite and subtle subterfuge in steering the course of events. Nothing is done without stratified calculation. Maybe I also just really like tea.

Because Breq was actually a ship (in Ancillary Justice), her relationships with all the other AIs are different than the other characters. You can buy into the idea that she has a startling different set of values and different ways of coming to conclusions. I think it would be harder to have a character from the more rich or powerful classes suddently take an interest in social justice, for example. And because her ship likes her (Breq is a fleet captain in this book), the ship sends her glances of insight into what is going on through her crew, or how her crew are feeling.

I also really loved the idea of the station (like a space station) being unhappy and her helping it out by knowing why it was upset in the first place. I imagine this is just going to get more interesting as the series goes along.

I also love the scale of the books. While larger politics within the universe are at play, they are played out at a smaller level. The story is self-contained and believable. The characters are well developed, there is nothing sacrificed in the pursuit of the next book. Things are discovered that will be important but it doesn't matter that we don't know what for quite yet. There is genuine ambiguity of what the ultimate outcome will be, especially with Breq's uneasy alliance with Anaander Mianaai. It is just bloody good story telling.

Also, Breq. So amazing. Supernatural in a way given her past but also now hampered by the limitations of being just one being, instead of a ship with all its sensors and ancillaries. She isn't the Knight in shining armour, justice and what is right is complicated. Good guys don't always escape unscathed.

What a fabulous book, a worthy sequel. I can't bloody wait for the next one.