“The point is, there is not point. Choose your own.”
This review remains spoiler-free for all three books, apart from character mentions (so you’ll be aware of a couple of people who are still alive as of Ancillary Mercy).
As with Ancillary Justice, I’m struggling to write a review for Mercy that doesn’t for sound like incoherent gushing because I loved it so much. An example of how much: I picked it up today with the idea of flipping through to find a quote for the beginning of the review, and two hours later realized that I hadn’t moved and was halfway through rereading it. Most of this book is people just talking to each other, politicking and navigating personal relationships, and yet it is completely spellbinding and impossible to put down. Moments of suspense and action are combined with social commentary and a rich array of thematic material about how people (some of them AIs) negotiate sentience, decision-making, personhood, privilege, feelings, self-determination. And did I mention the protagonist being a singing spaceship?!? These books are amazing. Ann Leckie is amazing.
“All the evidence points to a single conclusion: Physics has never existed, and will never exist.”
The Three-Body Problem is notable for a couple of reasons. First, it’s up for a Hugo this week. Second, it’s the first translated book that I’ve read since I started this blog… and third, it is the first book by a male author I’ve read since I started the blog (you can read more about why that is here)!
I’m going to be careful with my plot synopsizing, because The Three-Body Problem is one of those books where I was retroactively really glad I didn’t read the cover. I only found out what the book is really about halfway through, and it was an exciting and surprising moment that would have been considerably less surprising if I had read the GR synopsis or the back of the book. What is with the massive spoilers on book jackets?? So if you want to stay truly spoiler-free, I’d advise avoiding them.
My spoiler free introduction: a rash of suicides among Chinese scientists has left the scientific community alarmed and confused. In investigating the deaths, and their possible link to a shadowy organization called the Frontiers of Science, nanomaterials expert Wang Miao starts uncovering mysteries that throw everything he believed to be true about the world—and about the laws of physics—into doubt.
“Floating high above the city, dipping and swooping through the valleys of cinderblocks and concrete, landing on the edge of a rooftop to look down upon the inhabitants below. Watching seeing, learning. They walk along the streets, alleys, and avenues. Moving here, going there, in a constant state of rush. Appointments to be kept, people to see, things to do. And Adrianne was one of them. She had somewhere to go.”
Assuming you didn’t read a synopsis or a review of this unusual and remarkable book before picking it up—neither of which I did—it takes some time to figure out what is going on in Elysium. It’s basically impossible to summarize or review the book without spoiling that main premise, so I’m going to warn you now that if you would like to be surprised by it, do not read the rest of this review. I’m not sure what I recommend doing either way; I think that knowing some of this stuff ahead of time would have been very helpful, but I also think it will make for much more rewarding second reading some time, so the choice is yours.
“When they behave properly, you will say there is no problem. When they complain loudly, you will say they cause their own problems with their impropriety. And when they are driven to extremes, you say you will not reward such actions. What will it take for you to listen?”
After the events of Ancillary Justice, Breq has a ship and crew at her disposal, and is en route to the system of Athoek, one of many places “civilized” by the expansionist Radch Empire. Her goal is to bring stability to the system, a goal that is complicated by a repressive and stratified class system, the Radch Empire being on the brink of civil war, and the unnerving presence of a translator from the alien race the Presger – the only people to have created a weapon capable of destroying Radch ships.
I recently started my first reread of AncillaryJustice (let’s shorten it to Justice, from hereon out), the first book in Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy about imperialism and fragmented identity and loss. So far I still haven’t found a single thing about it I don’t absolutely adore. That is a lot to live up to, and unlike Justice I did have some critical thoughts about sequel Ancillary Sword (Sword, from hereon out). But that said, I loved every second of my reading experience with Sword, can’t wait to reread it, and overall feel like it more than met my incredibly high expectations.
Review: The Crystal Singer, by Anne McCaffrey
Science Fiction / Crystal Singer, #1 of 3
I have by and large had a very good streak with books lately. This book, unfortunately, broke that streak for me. I have some FEELINGS, and this turned out a bit more rant than review, so be forewarned.
Killashandra Ree is all set for the life of an intergalactic opera singer, when she is told she has an unfixable “flaw” in her voice that will prevent her from singing lead roles. Rather than settle for second-rate parts, she decides to study the dangerous and lucrative art of crystal singing on the planet of Ballybran, which she discovers she has a rare aptitude for.
I am mostly a novel reader, but I do try to mix things up from time to time—so here are three of my favourite short stories I’ve read recently. And the best thing is that all of them are available for free online!
Six Months, Three Days by Charlie Jane Anders
Romance – Novelette
“‘Well,’ Judy says. “There are a million tracks, you know. It’s like raindrops falling into a cistern, they’re separate until they hit the surface, and then they become the past: all undifferentiated. But there are an awful lot of futures where you and I date for about six months.”
‘Six months and three days,’ Doug says. ‘Not that I’ve counted or anything.'”
This novelette (possibly closer to a short story) is about two people who begin a relationship with each other, in spite of knowing that they will break up in exactly six months and three days. They know this because each of them can see the future, though in different ways. Doug sees the future as an immutable path, one he cannot vary from. Judy, on the other hand, sees an endless array of possibilities stretching from every moment, and tries to choose the best possible option for herself.
Review: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie Science Fiction – #1 of 3, Imperial Radch Trilogy
“If you’re going to do something that crazy, save it for when it’ll make a difference, Lieutenant Skaaiat had said, and I had agreed. I still agree. The problem is knowing when what you are about to do will make a difference… The single word that directs a person’s fate and ultimately the fates of those she comes in contact with is of course a common subject of entertainments and moralizing stories, but if everyone were to consider all the possible consequences of all one’s possible choices, no one would move a millimeter, or even dare to breathe for fear of the ultimate results.”
I already expressed some pre-review excitement on this blog. That entry can basically be summed up with the following:
Ancillary Justice is a book about a SENTIENT SPACESHIP that enjoys SINGING
And it’s amazing
Ancillary Justice takes place during two different periods of our starship protagonist Breq’s existence. Created as a tool for the expansionist Radch Empire, one timeline focuses on her experiences as a segment of twenty bodies (ancillaries) enforcing for the Empire on an annexed planet. In the second timeline, she has only a single body, and she is outside of Radch territory and on a mission of her own. What happened to Breq and what she is doing now are gradually revealed in an exciting and fantastic space opera, and possibly my new favourite book ever.
I didn’t even read the blurb on the back of the book (well, it was an e-book) before I started reading Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. The only thing I knew about it was that it won All The Awards in 2014, so I thought I should give it a shot.
Because I didn’t know anything I then had this fantastic experience of figuring out what exactly I was reading about that went something like this:
Protagonist is not human, cool
Protagonist seems to be able to occupy multiple bodies at the same time oh wow EVEN COOLER