The highly anticipated sequel to the multiple award-winning scifi novel about Breq, the reanimated corpse, former ancillary soldier of a ship with collective consciousness, who seeks to right many injustices in the Radchaai empire. Having carried through her former mission in Ancillary Justice, Breq is assigned to Athoek Station, and willingly goes to find the only living relative of an old friend, Lieutenant Awn.
When Breq starts to uncover the social and political instability at Athoek and the planet below, a much larger plot is uncovered. The model of Radchaai civility has failed to imprint itself completely on the conquered natives, now the lower class, and are forced into poverty by the Radchaai in power. As a not-quite-human human, Breq’s ability to empathize and place value on compassion and equality continues the great scifi tradition of AI consciousness.
The subtle storytelling of the first book carries over to it’s sequel beautifully. Breq’s close relationship with her new ship, Mercy of Kahr, is strongly reminiscent of her former life, but is tainted by the previous captain’s preference for her human soldiers to behave like emotionless ancillaries. Breq is also able to observe many different viewpoints, including her crew, through the ship, seeing the weaknesses and resentments they would never show her. Their camaraderie only serves to isolate Breq further. In this sequel, I am no longer trying to get past the continued use of the female pronoun; instead, I find myself accepting the characters without a defined sex, wanting to know more about their motives and past.
Although I really like Ancillary Sword, it does not generate the same excitement for me as its predecessor. I thought there might be more to the political intrigue, so I am slightly disappointed in the simplistic message about the evils of colonialism. And while I really enjoy getting to know Breq better, the pacing is slower than the first book. With the loss in momentum of the bigger epic mission, this sequel felt like a side-step away from the Anaander Mianaai conflict. I look forward to more active plotting by Breq to start the revolution.
Like the former, this book is for someone who appreciates the art of storytelling as much as the story. Recommended for fans of AI that sing.
“You take what you want at the end of a gun, you murder and rape and steal, and you call it bringing civilization. And what is civilization, to you, but us being properly grateful to be murdered and raped and stolen from? You said you knew justice when you heard it. Well, what is your justice but you allowed to treat us as you like, and us condemned for even attempting to defend ourselves?”