BSFA Shortlist Review: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

ancillarySwordAncillary Sword by Ann Leckie

Setting: Mostly on a space station belonging to the vast Radsch Empire, thousands of years in the future of the galactic human diaspora.

Summary: After the destruction of the ship Justice of Toren, the Lord of the Radsch gives Breq, the only surviving Justice of Toren ancillary soldier, command of a Mercy ship. She is assigned to Athoek Station, where institutionalized classism has led to the neglect and abuse of conquered citizens.

The blurb that was never blurbed:

Time for Breq-fast! (Because it was a long time between reading Justice and Sword. Get it? Ohnevermind.)

The premise-puncturing quote that everybody’s thinking:

‘I may well be extremely foolish just letting you live, let alone giving you official authority and a ship…’ [5]

Yep.

Synopsis quote:

…there were no tiny, brightly colored penises hanging in the corridors,… [18]

Haha, just kidding, but yeah… a funny scene in book full of “shes” and “hers.” I think Leckie is digging at herself here.

How it feels: Television-in-a-novel, much like its predecessor. Less than subtle address of imperial classism. Lots of indignant dialogue of the Picard shirt-tugging variety, which upstages the much more interesting quirks of an “unplugged” AI protagonist. Much tea drinking.

Word count time: Tea is mentioned 74 times, up from 39 in Ancillary Justice.

The blurb that was never blurbed, part 2:

More tea with your Breq-fast? (Eh?… eh?)

But about that tea drinking: It is a worn out sensory detail that I am quick to condemn, but it does serve the character of this sprawling empire maintained by delicate diplomacy.

Should you read this: Meh. Dramatized sci-fi makes for a blasé read, but I genuinely look forward to seeing this on the small screen, where the indignant dialogue and overt social commentary will be best utilized. Non-gendered pronoun use among sexually-ambiguous humanoid characters is not the most nuanced form of social commentary– it should not blow away dedicated SF readers– but this will be good for mainstream ‘Murica. I eagerly await the conservative huffing and puffing that will come from this development.

***

This review is part of an 8-part review series on the 2014 British Science Fiction Association Best Novel Shortlist. The winner will be announced at the BSFA ceremony at Eastercon on Sunday, April 5.

Previous BFSA Shortlist Reviews:
Europe in Autumn by David Hutchinson
The Race by Nina Allan
Cuckoo Song by Francis Hardinge
The Moon King by Neil Williamson
Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

Upcoming BFSA Shortlist Reviews:
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
Wolves by Simon Ings

 

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17 thoughts on “BSFA Shortlist Review: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

  1. Wait so it is in the works to get made into TV then? Or is that a pipe dream? Couch dream.

    I have to say the thought of all that tea drinking makes me want to read this less than I already do. Actually the main reason I even want to read it at all is that it got so much hype, and I like being able to join the big loud conversations, but yeah, um, hmmm.

    I laughed over the Breq-fast.

    Like

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      “Couch dream” haha, love it.

      Leckie sold the TV option. It may never become reality, but with all the buzz behind it, it has a chance.

      “Couch dreams” are bigger than TV space opera. “Couch dreams” want world peace and teleportation. And more hours in a day. And a robot that serves tea in bed.

      And, much as I love you calling me Couch, you can also call me Megan. I need to post that somewhere…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. thebookgator says:

    “I genuinely look forward to seeing this on the small screen, where the indignant dialogue and overt social commentary will be best utilized. ”

    giggle. I think you just identified why I don’t watch much tv. 😉

    Like

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      Same here. I have been known to enjoy the occasional dramatic space opera (BSG, Farscape), but, most of the time,turning on the TV is a real drag. It’s taken me two years to get through 1.5 seasons of Twilight Zone.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Widdershins says:

    Tea, you say? Hmmm …

    Like

  4. Rabindranauth says:

    Yea, sounds about right. I think I’ll flip a coin and let physics decide if I’ll read the next one lol.

    Like

  5. […] Allan Cuckoo Song by Francis Hardinge The Moon King by Neil Williamson Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor Ancillary Sword by Ann […]

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  6. And furthermore: It is April 1st and there is no post from you today IS THIS SOME KIND OF A JOKE? haha, etc.

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  7. […] Allan Cuckoo Song by Francis Hardinge The Moon King by Neil Williamson Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire […]

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  8. […] reading The Goblin Emperor. Still working on it. Maybe we’ll have a little chat later about Ancillary Sword and The Goblin Emperor and how they are not very literary, but actually very genre […]

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