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Friday, May 20, 2016

Review: Ancillary Justice

Ancilliary Justice won the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Awards, but it took me multiple tries to get into the novel enough to read it. Upon completing it, I understand why: it's the kind of novel that seems almost designed to win awards, rather than read well, or even necessarily be a fun read.

The going is slow, and the protagonist, while she reveals who she is fairly early on, doesn't make a lot of sense --- a lot of what she does appear to be counter-productive, and for someone who's supposed to be a hyper-intelligent AI, her plans appear vague, ill-formed, and her abilities only show up in the physical realm --- either being an impossibly good shot, or being hyper-aware of how she appears to other AIs who are similarly sensitive.

The innovative parts of the novel are interesting: the primary villain isn't really one, and the motivation of the main character, Breq (formerly known as the AI ship Justice of Toren) is obscure and spoken of only at a distance.

Ultimately, however, I never cared about any of the characters in the novel, and the milleu isn't really explained/exposited well. This might be forgivable if the viewpoint character was merely human, or an unreliable narrator. But well, the viewpoint character is a multi-thousand year old AI, and she's not unreliable (in fact, she's supremely reliable at the conclusion of the novel).

I don't think this novel deserves it's Hugo/Nebula though it's quite conceivable that the year it won was an unusually poor year for novels. In fact, though I did finish the novel, I'm not excited to go out and read the next one in the series, which means that I can't really recommend it.

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