Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ancillary Sword

Ann Leckie's Ancillary Sword is the sequel to Ancillary Justice, her knockout first scifi novel. All the excellent elements are there --- multiple simultaneous interwoven viewpoints, indignant outrage, powerlessness in the face of structural inequality. The book is about a spaceship in the body of a person, which body is itself often in other spaceships, and so of course the book is about boundaries and personality and what elements of a mind one can be aware of, and not aware of, and how each person must make conscious decisions that shape her character. Especially, of course, the supreme tyrant, in thousands of bodies, currently having a civil war over a little disagreement with herself.

The book is excellent. I have no idea how the author managed it, but it is supremely impressive. The characters develop meaningfully; the setting changes, without escalating to the Fate of the Universe Lies on One Heroine's Shoulders. Like Ursula K. Le Guin, Ann Leckie makes human-sized problems, daily issues of real life, have real-life-style focus of her books, while still mattering to a larger plot. And it's presented in an intellectually and emotionally engaging way. The mind boggles at the number of things she has juggled here, perfectly. seemingly-effortlessly.

It's weird that there are three types of ship: Justices, Swords, and Mercies, and in book I the main character is a Justice, and the book is called Ancillary Justice, but in book II the main character is captain of a Mercy, and the book is called Ancillary Sword. And of course book III is called Ancillary Mercy, since that's the third type of ship, and it's nice to finish the trilogy off on the note of mercy, but in the interests of evenness, will the third book focus its action on a Sword-class ship? I wonder. Just for structure, you see, because I'm sure that whatever Ann Leckie has plotted is magnificent and deeply satisfying and engaging on every level.

This post's theme word is monish, "to warn; to admonish." The AIs monish, but few humans heed.

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