I posted about Ancillary Justice when I was halfway through, and now I've finished it and I have to wait like two whole weeks for book club, and I'm worried I'll forget how insanely wonderful it was. Like, I kept having to put it down because I was getting too worked up.
Since this is a second half review, there will be spoilers at the end, but I'll do the non-spoilery part first.
In my first post, I talked about the gender-free Radch and how it left me stewing about how my expectations of a scene were colored by my trying to determine who was male and who was female. In the second half of the book, I had the opposite experience--I ceased to notice the gender, and was able to read all the "her"s as a given. It literally didn't matter to me. There were definitely some characters I was reading as male and some as female, but it was completely secondary. It's amazing how easy it was to slip into this, and it made me want to change English pronouns.
Another non-spoiler: I found the idea of fate as being very interesting. Breq doesn't really seem to buy into it much. But the Radchaai take coincidence very seriously, and I feel like the book does, too. At a minimum, the fact that Seivarden was on the planet of Nict, of all places. It's a coincidence that almost wouldn't hold up if it hadn't happened at the beginning of the book, where it's not clear how big a deal that moment is.
Okay, here come the spoilers.
This is for those of you who have read the book, which should be everyone, because it's AMAZING.
Here we go.
I want to talk about Seivarden, and the changes in her character. Her story arc is a traditional rock-bottom one, from a somewhat obnoxious person dealt a hard blow, through addiction, to a deep humility and open-mindedness, but without losing the tenor of obnoxiousness that makes her herself. This ties in so nicely with how we come to understand Breq as an individual consciousness, vs. part of Justice of Toren or One Esk.
Speaking of which, do you think Breq is One Esk, or One Esk Nineteen? I feel like she's clearly not Justice of Toren, not exactly, and that's stated pretty clearly by Anaander Mianaai when she talks about ignoring the notion that One Esk might have favorites.
Speaking of Anaander, does anyone else wonder what she is? There are AIs, with many bodies, and there are people, with one body, and there is Anaander, who has many bodies but is not considered an AI. Or maybe she is? But if so, why is she so different--why is she in control, why are other AIs "it"s? She does come around to treating Breq as a person very quickly upon meeting her. Could Anaander be an AI herself?
Also, how do you feel about how the story ends? I really appreciate that the idea of siding with one Anaander, even the "good" one, does not in any way assure Breq. The kindest dictator is still a dictator. But then, the idea of ending a bad government is always easier to get behind than trying to imagine and implement a good government.
This is an issue that's come up twice for me this weekend--once in a play I saw on Saturday at Stoneham Theatre, That Hopey, Changey Thing, and once in a novella I read, K.J. Parker's Purple and Black. This is something I find very hard to think about, especially since revolution is such a great dramatic topic for fiction.
But sadly, I have to go to bed. More when I review the Parker book. Let me say again, though--Ancillary Justice is amazing and thrilling and so readable and I can't wait to read Ancillary Sword!