A lot of people will be reading this book because it won the Clarke Award. I did in an indirect way. I had not heard of Ann Leckie until after the Clarke award was announced. Then several people I follow started re-tweeting the author’s response to winning the award. In these days of media savvy authors it was refreshing to see an honest and unedited response of pure joy and surprise. I bought this book on the back of that response. It made me smile and feel happy for her at the same time. I am getting soppy in my old age but it proved to be a wise decision.
For me the thing that really stood out in this book was the use of gender. The use of androgyny and overtly masculine or feminine looks across both genders is really well done. What really made this work though was how an artificial intelligence used to reading gender and the subtle linguistic nuances to determine them would really struggle in other cultures with completely different language rules for gender. It was clever in a way that I am still working through in my head after finishing the novel.
The world-building in this novel provides a rich and varied cast within a civilization that seems to share many traits with ancient Rome but on a planetary scale. Like all empires there is a figurehead pushing and cajoling internecine fighting and competition between factions to keep such a lofty position. What happens when an empire pushes too far? What happens when the leader is a multiplicity of clones split in to warring factions?
I’m not going to spoil your fun. Buy the book and find out. You will not regret it. This is an enthralling and engaging book with just a single fault. The second part of this trilogy does not come out until October and I’m too impatient to wait that long.