I´m not an avid reader of Science Fiction but when I do read a Science Fiction book, I´m always glad if it strikes a chord with me. And Ann Leckie´s Ancillary Justice certainly made an impression on me.
The first half of the book the chapters are alternating between the present day, where Breq is seeking for revenge, and the past, explaining how Breq has turned into a single individual. She once was an artificial intelligence on a spaceship, the Justice of Toren, and through her ancillary units and segments, she was one of many. What happened to Breq? And why is she seeking revenge?
That is the main question in the first half of the book and I can totally relate to people, who doesn´t like this kind of narrative structure. I caught myself every once in a while wishing that I could read the present day story in the next chapter instead of the past. But I do think that we need this huge backdrop to Breq´s story and that Leckie couldn´t have told her story any other way. Putting Breq´s past in the beginning of the story or as a whole segment in the middle of the narrative, wouldn´t have had the same impact on the reader. Some of the actions in the past does have an influence on her decision making and gives a lot of insight to Breq´s character. Throughout the first half of the book, I grew utterly fond of Breq and her unlikely partner, the mysterious Seivardan and the awesome ending compensates for some dragging passages in the beginning.
I do have a minor complain concerning the gender issue. Breq belongs to the Radchaai, a civilization, who doesn´t distinguish between male and female. So everyone in this universe according to the Radchaai is a “she”, although the Radchaai aren´t genderless. I wasn´t particularly annoyed by the fact, that everyone is addressed as “she”. My problem is, that don´t see the point in bringing up the gender topic. The only thing I could come up with is, that Breq is more easily unmasked as a Radchaai when she doesn´t get her gender pronouns right in a conversation with a non-Radchaai. And this isn´t a good enough of a reason for me using such a plot device as this, which can be distractible and off putting for some readers.
Still, I will be reading the other books in the Imperial Radch trilogy and I´m really looking forward to it.