Leckie proves she’s no mere flash in the pan with this follow-up to her multiaward-winning debut space opera, Ancillary Justice (2013).

Breq used to be One Esk Nineteen, an ancillary, or human-bodied extension, of the Artificial Intelligence that powered the ship Justice of Toren. Two decades after the ship's destruction, she is Fleet Capt. Breq Mianaai, envoy of the many-bodied Lord of the Radch empire, Anaander Mianaai. Or a tool of part of her: The Lord is a mind divided against itself, and the dissension among herselves has brought the empire to the brink of civil war. One faction has sent Breq to Athoek station to secure it. Once there, Breq discovers that the station and the planet below are a microcosm of corruption and conspiracy, another symptom of the empire's decay. After the literally explosive finale of the previous installment, one might have expected the novel to have a broader, more action-focused sweep. But Leckie doesn't seem concerned with space battles—the core of the story she wants to tell is more intimate, personal. As in the previous volume, she offers the groaningly obvious moral that those who are considered of lesser breeding frequently display far nobler behavior than the cardboard villains who believe themselves to be their so-called betters. She manages to retain interest, however, by cutting Breq and her friends and allies from more richly patterned cloth. The AI who proves to have more insight, more compassion and a greater sense of justice—who is, in fact, more human—than the humans around it is a common sci-fi trope. But Breq intriguingly defies that trope in one key sense: AIs of that sort usually aspire to be human, while Breq feels lonely and limited in her single body, desperately, painfully missing what she once was.

Perhaps something of a retread but still interesting and worth following to its conclusion.

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-316-24665-1
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2014


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