Someone recommended me Ancillary Justice last year, but I had at the time a pile of books waiting to be read and thought, well, later. However, sooner rather than later Ann Leckie 's debut novel started racking up best book awards, and now that I got around to it I think it has won almost everything of the 2013/2014 book season.
Rightly so, it is a suspenseful, well written, and interesting science fiction novel set in a future of jump gates, huge AI-controlled ships, and a galactic empire - the Radch. It sounds perhaps grandiose, and some of the themes are that I guess, but the story focus on one main character: Breq, and is, well, very human. She was once the collective consciousness inhabiting the great ship Justice of Toren as well as part of its crew (it's ancillaries) but now she only has a single human body.
With its tale of AIs and group-minds (action filled revenge story, and a discussion of what it means to have a free choice) Ancillary Justice is of course right up my alley. Now, in contrast to Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, the mechanic of transforming a group mind is not central to the story, even if the action is (in Ancillary the mind is a unitary process, and there are - at least at this point in the story - much mental effect when splitting the host collective, bar a lack of sensory inputs and shared states, though this is open ended and I'm curious to see how it develops in further books; in Fire on the other hand the mind is an emergent property of the host collective). This is about as far as a comparison to Vinge should go however, as Leckie has a different style, and above all a different focus. Le Guin comes to my mind, but I think any comparison is a bit unfair. This is Leckie's first novel, it is distinctly her own, and promises well for the future.
The novel's strengths are its characters, story, and world. There are however some loose ends, and the motivation of a couple of the characters sometimes escaped me. On the other hand, this is the first part of a trilogy, and there are enough hints to make me believe they are left there to be resolved in future books of the series; books I am very much looking forward to.