I’m as guilty as the next person of judging books by their covers and assuming I know what certain genres and sub-genres are and aren’t, and which aren’t for me. Had I not been gifted this novel, I never would have read it, despite knowing it won the Hugo AND Nebula awards. War, space ships, fighting, empires, blergh, not for me AT ALL, I thought. I was so terribly wrong.
See, I’m sick of all the stories that glorify wars and empires and fighting, but that’s not at all what The Imperial Radch trilogy is about. It’s a critique of empires and wars, and it’s SO MUCH MORE than that. I finished the entire trilogy within a month of starting Ancillary Justice, the first book. And from the moment I read the last word on the last page of the last book, I have been mourning the loss of my friendship with one of my favorite characters of all time: Breq. Because a good book with characters you love is a form of friendship between you and those characters. And no, I didn’t immediately fall in love with Breq, but once I did, I was smitten for life.
Stories don’t have to have likeable or lovable characters to be great, but hey, take an awesome story and add in a character I want to be best friends with and BLAMMO: One of the greatest stories of all times. I’m not joking. The Imperial Radch trilogy is now tied with The Broken Earth trilogy as my absolute favorite books of all time.
Ancillary Justice comes with its own set of gender norms and assumptions, which is great for raising questions about our own gender norms and assumptions. It explores other forms of consciousness that can exist, what that might look like, and what the moral and ethical implications of such consciousness might be. I was quite enthralled with the Big Questions of the series and how those Big Questions were explored through character and plot, quite exquisitely. The writing is excellent, the story is excellent, the characters range from despicable to lovable with every permutation between.
Like I said, tied for my favorite books of all time. Do yourself a favor and check it out!
Second, I did start reading Ancillary Justice in a very skeptical mode, which meant I read like 1/4 or 1/3 of it then set it down for a few weeks before deciding to give it a real go. Once I was hooked, I was HOOKED. So give it a fair shot. It can be hard to get used to different gender norms, for sure, and I say that as a genderqueer person who dreams of abolishing all gender norms.