#FridayReads: The Imperial Radch Trilogy by Ann Leckie

cover for Ancillary JusticeJust yesterday I finished reading the Imperial Radch trilogy by Ann Leckie. I enjoyed every second of it, and am excited to learn that a new entry in the series comes out in September, right after my birthday!

I’ve felt a bit out of the sci-fi loop for not having read this series since it made the awards circuit in 2014–and all of them are well earned, that’s for sure.

Science fiction has been asking the question, “What makes us human?” since its earliest days, and this trilogy continues that tradition with its own take. It also explores themes of colonization, empire, class, and gender.

The trilogy consists of Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy. In this universe, military spaceships and space stations are run by powerful, intelligent, and emotive AIs. Many of these AIs have ancillaries, which are human bodies essentially wiped of their consciousness and tied into the AI’s consciousness. It’s a brutal process that involves the death of the person inhabiting that body.

cover for ancillary swordThe leader of the expansionist Radch empire, Anaander Mianaai, has hundreds of clone bodies and has ruled Radch space for thousands of years. Several incidents with various alien species has caused her to split into multiple factions, which leads to the destruction of the ship Justice of Toren, minus one ancillary, who now goes by Breq.

The Radchaai language doesn’t distinguish genders, so all characters are referred to as “she” throughout the books, and we learn (some of) their genders through interactions with people who speak languages that do distinguish gender. Interestingly, we’re never explicitly (that I remember) told what gender Justice of Toren’s last remaining human body is. It doesn’t matter, though, and that, I’m sure, is Leckie’s point in concealing the gender.

cover for ancillary mercyBreq has set out on a mission to kill Anaander Mianaai, and thus sets in motion the trilogy’s plot. Leckie balances the demands of writing an overarching plot for the trilogy while also giving each book a true beginning, middle, and end. There’s a lot of internal tension, which balances well against the bursts of action and violence. This is definitely intellectual science fiction more than action-adventure-type sci-fi, though there’s plenty of action.

The trilogy is all about revenge, but I appreciate that the revenge Breq exacts involves out-maneuvering rather than outright killing the Lord of the Radch–which would be almost impossible, because of her many many of clone bodies (though Breq does try to kill as many bodies as possible anyway, and who can blame her?).

I could probably write at LEAST half a dozen critical essays on the way Leckie handles class, colonialism, and humanity in general, but I’ll leave this review here: If smart, well-written, character AND plot driven science fiction is your thing, you’ll enjoy these books. I can’t wait for the next one!

#FridayReads: After the Crown by KB Wagers

Picture of After the Crown by KB Wagers

This year, I’ve decided to pick a specific reading theme: women authors of science fiction. That doesn’t mean I’ll only read female SF authors or only SF, but that’s going to be my primary focus.

After the Crown by K. B. Wagers is the second book in the Indranan War trilogy, the first of which is Before the Throne. The third book should be out this winter, but I’m not excited about having to wait almost a year for it to come out!

The Indranan War trilogy so far is a fantastic sci-fi adventure with a strong female lead, diverse characters throughout, and an interesting setting. The Indranan Empire is made up of the descendants of Indian space travelers from centuries ago, and they have more or less kept the Hindu belief system and what amounts to a less strict caste system. The twist is that a disorder called space madness affected men more than women, leading the original patriarchy to become a matriarchy.

The main character is Hail, the last member of the royal family left alive after an attempt to take over the throne. Hail ran away from home after her father’s death and became Cressen Stone, a hardened gunrunner. But two Trackers find her and bring her home to her dying mother.

Reluctantly, Hail steps back into the role of princess, and of course that’s when all hell breaks loose. Things escalate in After the Crown, and I’d highly recommend this series to anyone who loves space opera starring women, including Star Wars and Anne Leckie’s Ancillary trilogy.

#FridayReads: “Darkship Renegades” by Sarah A. Hoyt

darkshiprenegadesI am always on the hunt for space opera about women, written by women. It’s not as common as one would hope. So when I stumbled upon this series by Sarah A. Hoyt in my local Barnes & Noble, I ordered it from the library (because I had already spent all my book money).

Darkship Renegades is the second book, after Darkship Thieves. In this universe, humans bioengineered these super humans who had incredibly long live spans but couldn’t reproduce, and then rebelled against them.

Before all the bioengineered people were forced to flee Earth (including more run of the mill bioengineered people with enhanced sight and the like), the super humans, called Mules, created these crazy trees that grow in space and produce power pods. Now everything runs on power pods rather than fossil fuels, and that goes for the humans in exile, too.

The thing is, most of Earth’s advanced technology was lost in the rebellions, so no one knows how to make new power trees.

So the exiles, who live inside an asteroid called Eden and are total anarchists, have to steal power pods from Earth in these stealth ships called darkships.

I don’t want to spoil the plot, but our heroine, a daughter of one of Earth’s current rulers, is forced to flee when her father apparently turns on her. She escapes to the power tree forest where she runs into one of Eden’s darkships. Kit, the darkship pilot, rescues her and then takes her back to Eden so she can’t squeal about the darkships (most Earth people think it’s just a legend).

Entanglements and plot twists ensue. Darkship Renegades takes up right where Darkship Thieves lets off, so these are definitely books you want to read in order. I’d characterize them as fun space opera romps with underlying social commentary. (What sci fi doesn’t contain social commentary, though? That’s why I love it!)

I’ve grown quite fond of Athena, the main character, and the crew of people she gathers around herself. She’s a snarky lady who doesn’t take shit, and I like that.

There’s some cliche romance stuff, but it’s not awful (i.e. the man in the relationship doesn’t have all the power). I don’t mind some romance in my space adventures, as long as the space adventure has more weight than the romance.

I also really like the idea of the power trees and power pods, and the way the author has built up Eden society–this is an anarchist society I could see working really well. No one is in charge, but anyone can charge blood geld against another person for any harm. So you don’t mess with anyone, because then you have to literally pay for it.

This isn’t an oh my god you have to read it kind of novel, but it’s a lot of fun, and I hope to see more space opera from Sarah A. Hoyt in the future (she’s written a bunch of fantasy novels, which I might check out at some indeterminate time).