This is kind of a big deal for me. I’ve written several times about how I set a goal to read every Hugo Award winning novel, and this was the last one. At least, it’s the last one until the end of the month when the next winner is announced.
The book itself is really good. It took me a while to get into it, just because I was trying to figure out what was going on. Once I figured out the difference between the present story and the flashbacks, things got easier. Since I was listening to the audiobook, I didn’t get any visual cues to separate the two timelines and the similar sounding names took a while to sort out. The pronoun use also threw me for a while, but I think that’s the point. I was never quite able to determine the actual gender for several characters, but in the end it didn’t matter.
Leckie does some really interesting things in her universe. The primary one is the nature of the ancillaries. In the flashback scenes, Justice of Toren is, essentially, a hive minded entity. I’ve only read one other book that played with this idea, A Fire upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge. Leckie’s approach was much different than Vinge’s though both dealt with similar issues (like how a single instance of the entity copes with separation from the group). While I enjoyed both, I think Leckie does a better job here.
One thing that I appreciate in science fiction authors is when they don’t over-explain. Ancillary Justice does a fine job with that. Enough explanation is given during the course of the story that nothing feels out of place. There aren’t long expositions that describe to the reader something that the inhabitants of the world take for granted. This does a lot to keep the story engaging. It’s a little confusing at first, but it makes far more sense than the alternative.
I’m still trying to decide where I’ll add this book to my Hugo lists, but I’m sure I’ll update them soon.