Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie
I read this on the coach on a recent journey to the South West. The short version? It’s good.
The long version? Under the cut, WITH SPOILERS….
(Oh, and FISH SAUCE!)
“What to do about Anaander Mianaai?” Indeed, what to do about Anaander Mianaai? That is definitely quite the question, and Breq’s eventual solution was both surprising, unexpected, and probably the most effective thing she could have done.
The start of the book carries on from the events in Ancillary Sword, and their ongoing repercussions. Breq has to navigate the increasingly-tense atmosphere that has developed onboard Athoek Station. The Valskaayan workers’ strike down on the planet below has had some unintended consequences; the old social/political elite aboard the station decide to mount a strike of their own to protest their supposed grievances. In addition, all of this is charged with some ugly racial sentiments along the Ychanna/Xhai divide.
Initially, Breq handles the situation quite well. However, there are other concerns.
Seivarden’s longstanding personal crisis rears its head once more. Lt. Tisarwat reveals some more of the secrets of Mianaai – she knows how to rewrite the accesses for Radch AIs. And then there is the mysterious presence beyond the Ghost Gate, now revealed to be a pre-imperial starship AI called Sphene. And there are growing hints that *something* very odd has been going on beneath the Undergarden.
Oh, and then a new Presger ambassador arrives. Apparently the Presger have become aware of the deteriorating situation inside the Radch, and they’re not entirely happy about it. Potentially, the values of ‘not entirely happy’ start at stern words for the Head of State, but could quite possibly run all the way up to ‘everybody dies – everywhere’. The Presger are, quite simply, the Presger, and if you’re not scared of them, then you’re an idiot.
Then Anaander Mianaai returns, and all of Breq’s plans are blown out of the water…
What I Liked
Quite a lot 🙂
The book starts slowly, but it gives you quite a jolt when suddenly everything is going wrong for our heroes. I’d like to say more about that, but that’s probably too spoilerific for this review.
In this book, Tisarwat is pretty much back on her feet, and oh my, she does get about! It’s fair to say that Tisarwat is quite critical to the denouement.
The question of the personhood of AIs resurfaces in a very big way, and is also crucial to the conclusion.
The implications of the Presger treaty are explored. Also, we gt some sense of what exactly the Presger are – and it is very, very alien. Even Translator Zeiat herself comes across as other-than-human (such as her growing obsession with fish sauce!).
Also, it’s pretty clear that the Radch-as-it-was is finished now. It’s as big as it will get, and the conclusion makes clear that it’s pretty much certain to start shrinking. Anaander Mianaai has done a first-rate job of sabotaging her own creation.
What Is Problematic
Really not much.
Probably some readers won’t be entirely happy with the ending, as it does leave quite a few things open. Still, I actually tend to think that an open ending makes a degree of sense, given the situation. Given the sheer size of the Radchaai empire, it’s implausible that one person could change all of it – in fact, actually, that’s the whole point of the conflict, really, isn’t it? The Radch is a victim of its own success, basically. If it had stayed more compact and thus more integrated, probably none of this would have happened.
Also I will admit that the possibility of President-for-Life Tisarwat is … perhaps mildly worrying … but it isn’t entirely clear that that’s how the Republic of Two Systems will play out in practise.
if you’ve enjoyed the rest of this series, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book 🙂