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.

14 January 2015

Off the Cliff: A Review of Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie

"You do realize that the protagonist is a battle-ship". This fantastic statement was uttered deadpan by moi less than 24hrs ago as the hubby was trying to discuss the fate of our furnace and the decreasing drop in temperature both in and outside our house. When you are three quarters through a novel that you have unfortunately been reading too quickly and are about to reach the denouement, heat is of little consequence, nor really is the basic necessities to life. Thankfully the heat came on, I was uninterrupted in my binge read-a-thon and the sequel sits in the stack by the bed; all is right in this girl's world. 

And so here we go again with another aggressively addicting series that has spellbound my brain, throwing me off the cliff of imagination, inspiring me to completely lose it on Thank the Maker. Like a good little space opera lemming I have succumbed to all that is right and confusing that is Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justices was the "it" book of 2014. It won everything. Everyone read it. I was not everyone. Slow on the uptake, never completely engaged with the happenings of the SF publishing world, adopting a lazier approach to the must read recommendations, preferring personal choice over popular sentiment, I neglected Ancillary Justice. What the hello was I doing all last year? (right, right, right, having an affair).  

Breq, the last ancillary of Justice of Toren, a two thousand year old sentient battle-ship for the Radchie Empire is on a vengeful quest. Wanting not to crouch on spoiler alert territory, I find myself struggling with what to type next, reveal just a little to inspire you to read the novel or allude to awesomeness, avoiding reading sabotage? I love surprises, especially when an author takes me on an unanticipated journey, revealing key plot points by twisting the conventional. Ann Leckie's AI sentient ancillary protagonist is the only means by which the reader is introduced to the Radchian universe.  Written in the first person narrative, Ancillary Justice has lost many a fan because of it's seemingly simple, conversational tone.  It is an easy read and while that may seem insignificant, no author or reader wants a novel to appear elementary, when in fact it is a multi-layered, successful, world-building, piece of art. (It is at this point, that I have decided to lose it.) I enjoy the boundaries that the first person narrative creates. As a reader, I delight in the not knowing, having to rely solely on the story that the protagonist is telling, finding, as the novel unfolds what is the truth. I also like aliens, alien mentality and the inability to predict alien perceptions, because it is an alien. Call me what you will, space opera slut/junky/nutter, I just love me a book that unnerves my humanity. 

Having decided to allude to awesomeness I realize I haven't provided much in terms of a review guide. As with Seeds of Earth, Ancillary Justice is SF. If you are rather shy about a race of aliens called Rrrrrrr or the main character a battle-ship, animating the body of a prisoner who was frozen for future ancillary work, then this might not be your cup of tea. However if you were ever going to give space opera a try, why not read the "it" book of 2014 and discover how crazy SF can so wonderfully be.

9 January 2015

This Girl's Reading Pile 2015

As I grow older, not taller my new year's eve shenanigans have become less fantastical to a point this year, that it was non-existence. I was deeply asleep by 11, unaware of the festivities bubbling up around me as my city approached the witching hour. Sitting by the tree on the 1st, coffee at hand, nibbling flat bread, I cruised through my favourite blog sites marvelling over the fabulous reading challenges that 2015 had inspired. Personally, I have learned to keep my challenge simple, a goal of 55 with 30 being exclusively SF/fantasy and of those, 5 from indie writers.

The beginning of this year finds me revisiting the eternal question of to buy or not to buy an e-reader. Some very nice people have sent me their books and although attempts have been made, filled with great intentions, two novels continue to sit on my desktop, radiating guilt. And so the low-tech geek who has yet to own a cell phone wonders if acquiring a device to make reading easier, would actually encourage her (basically me) to read more indie?  I know what you must be thinking, you don't own a phone? Having undergone numerous interventions by well-meaning friends regarding my phone-less state, I can honestly say that I have heard it all and while you may have some poignant arguments to contribute to the cell debate, this post is in fact about my 2015 reading pile. Clearly my new year's resolution excluded clarity and avoidance of meaningless mumbo-jumbo and side-bar commentary.
The ideal place to read the pile.....sigh

The pile of 2015 is a promising stack, ranging from operatic space insanity to zombies, not the vomit zombie, but the groddy walking undead type. Thus far I have only completed Seeds of Earth which has left me tempted to plunge right back into the Humanity's Fire series with The Orphaned Worlds but in all honesty, I don't believe my brain can handle the intensity.  Seeds of Earth was an unrelenting explosion of action which I thoroughly loved but needed a little something something to break-up the hammering of information being thrown at me; that something something happened to be Karen Lord's inaugural novel, Redemption in Indigo. Thanks to those two books, which just may be the strangest combination to read at the same time ever, I lost my entire will to write. Why bother mashing words together on Thank the Maker when I could be reading?