Early edition cover art: Josh Harris
Themes: Nature of Individuality, Artificial Intelligence
You might recall that last year I wasn't particularly impressed with "Ancillary Sword." This one is better, in fact Ann Leckie's 3rd installment of her "ancillary" series is her best. It's a solid story which brings her tale to a nominal close, yet leaves some room for later additions.
The protagonist, fleet captain Breq - a shard of an AI occupying a human form - remains an interesting character and the Radchaii universe she inhabits is unique. While eastern cultures are no stranger to science fiction, this rendering seems somehow more authentic, rich and detailed than do many others.
Still, this is a novel that doesn't feel to me as if it covers a whole lot of ground in its plotting or on an emotional level. Don't get me wrong; what it does do is well accomplished. But the stakes are even lower, the plot is even smaller and the ideas are not particularly fresh, especially after two prior installments. For instance, that artificial intelligence (whether in the brains of humans or in computers) might be beings in their own right is not a new concept in science fiction. Furthermore, the most interesting character - the unpredictably hilarious translator Zeiat - is somewhat peripheral.
Overall, unlike "Ancillary Sword" I would rank this one higher than No Award, but given the strong competition this year, I'd place it no higher than 4th out of 5 titles.