20 January 2015

By Your Command: A Review of Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie

My intention today was to ponder on my relationship with YA. YA, or Young Adult for all us oldie-oldsons is a thriving sub-genre within the SF umbrella which comprises three-quarters of the Hollywood film industry. Although I appreciate Thor (for various reasons, holy sweet muscles), Spidey and all those teen dystopian flicks, I wouldn't mind watching an original screenplay once in a blue moon. 


The very best aspect to a novel is the power the reader has in painting the story in her imagination. Besides the Harry Potter franchise, I have yet to watch an adapted film that has managed to portray what the public generally agrees it should be, while maintaining the integrity of the book. An apt example is the YA megalith, The Hunger Games which works well on film as long as you haven't read the series or have and willing to ignore the glamorization of Katniss.  The protagonist is anything but the woman we see on screen, someone bent on revenge, able to make her victimization a weapon. The Katniss on the printed page is a young, scared, out-of-control teen who does not actively choose her destiny. War, death, and torture do not hone a person into a god-like martyr, it breaks you. It is this raw emotional quality that piques my interest with YA but I reiterate, not the topic of the day. 

Today, is all about a battle-ship; yes indeed, the Ancillary Justice party continues with the
follow-up review of Ancillary Sword by Anne Leckie. All this nonsense is thanks in full to The Dork Portal who instructed me to write a review already, so he could make a sound decision whether to read it. And so by his command, we are here, The Maze Runner (half written post, now chucked to the curb) be damned, let's decide once and for all if this phenomena of Leckie's is really worth your while. 

The verdict is yes....er.....no...er... I don't know. I read both books as if I was on fire:  even though this may seem an indicator of success, it speaks more to my reading habits. I read fast; I like space opera, there was little to no chance that this series was going to sit gathering dust. But is Ancillary Sword a good book?

I hate this but no, not so much actually. A continuation of the story arc, Ancillary Sword moves our character Breq further along her quest for justice. Promoted to Fleet Captain, she is assigned to Athoek Station far from the heart of the Radch Empire; home to 1000s, surrounded by space gates, embroiled in micro and macro political intrigue. Whereas Ancillary Justice was fast-paced, heightened adventure, Ancillary Sword is a quiet, subdued version of that very action. There was so much that Leckie had to work with, even a Ghost Gate, an apparent haunted space portal that she herself took the time to include in her book. Why, or why would she not capitalize on this rather than hanging out in the underground levels of Station, trying to amend some small injustices? 300 odd pages of Breq missing herself as a battle-ship and the excessive mooning over the sister of a Lieutenant she once worked with was a tad tedious.

The simple fact is Ancillary Sword is not Ancillary Justice and that is a total bummer.