Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Science Fiction: Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch) By Ann Leckie

(Drivebycuriosity) - Imagine that you have not just one body, but hundreds of them, and you can be at many places at the same time! This is one of the fascinating ideas I found in the science fiction novel "Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch)" by Ann Leckie (amazon). The book collected a lot of awards: The Hugo Award, Nebula Award, BSFA Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Locus Award. I really enjoyed reading the novel and was impressed by the abundance of original ideas. I found "Ancillary Justice" entertaining and thought provoking.

The book is set in a far future and deals with an expansionist culture, the "imperial Radch" of the title, who had conquered many worlds (this is a spoiler free blog. You can find a synopsis here wikipedia). The story is told in first person, but this person is not really a person, it is an artificial intelligence (AI), called "Breq", who is a two-thousand years old. The plot moves back in forth in time and shifts between the "present" and an episode around 20 years before. In the earlier episode "Breq" was the brain of a military spaceship,  called "the ship", and existed simultaneously as hundreds of soldiers with human bodies. These bodies had been taken from prisoners of war who´s brain got exchanged by transplanted AIs.

Leckie said in an interview: "What that must be like - to have not only a huge ship for a body, but also hundreds, sometimes thousands, of human bodies all seeing and hearing and doing things at once"?

I am also fascinated by another character, named "Anaander Mianaai", the leader of the "Radch". "Mianaai" is worshiped as  "the Lord of the Radch",  very power- and resourceful and "can literally fuck herself"! She has multiplied herself into 1000 different bodies, which makes her (almost) indestructible, but also causes quarrels between her many multiple incarnations (personas).

There are serious conflicts between "Greq" and "Mianaai", and between the multiple incarnations of the Lord herself, which lead to a lot of events -  the backbone of the story.

It is clear that the author was inspired by the history of the Roman empire as role model for the "imperial Radch".  I also  detected influences from the English class system and reports about China´s  aristocracy (the emperor´s court).

There is one downer: In Leckie`s novel everybody is a "she - the author doesn`t distinguish by gender - which is irritating and slows the flow of reading.  But anyway, "Ancillary" is already one of the classics of Science Fiction and a must read for connoisseurs of the genre.

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