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The Imperial Radch Trilogy by Ann Leckie

I have a new core pillar in my sacred halls of science fiction.

A person reads a book on a table with tea and flowers.
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Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie. Orbit Books.

Gosh, wow. I have a new core pillar in my sacred halls of science fiction. (The other core pillars belong to Frank Herbert, Ursula K. Le Guin, Iain M. Banks, and Kim Stanley Robinson. “Core pillars” are of course an arbitrary distinction which changes yearly.)

Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy is a profound and enjoyable meditation on empire, identity, and justice. On one hand, it engages these themes in a far-future setting, one largely divorced from contemporary politics. On the other hand, any deep engagement with empire, identity, and justice will have profound resonances for our contemporary society.

I should note that this isn’t entry-level SF. Two things I adore about this series may be a bit strange for some readers. First, the Radchaai society does not distinguish gender. Second, in Radchaai society, some spaceships are crewed by human bodies controlled by the spaceship’s AI. These bodies are called ancillaries. The Imperial Radch trilogy is narrated by one such ancillary. That is to say, the series narrator is an AI that can be in multiple places at one time and communicate with other AI minds at will. I think Ann Leckie did a marvellous job telling the story from this point of view, but it’s the first time I’ve encountered such a narrator, and this (combined with Radchaai society’s lack of gender) might be big hurdles for some readers. However, I must say, these features were some of my favorite parts of the books. Therefore, Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy isn’t only a meditation on empire, identity, and justice, it’s also a study in gender and point-of-view. Yeah, it’s that awesome.