Tag Archives: arthur c. clarke

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

img_0068This has been on my ‘to read’ list for ages. Thankfully I bought it on kindle – Amazon warns you if you have already bought a book and I have almost accidentally bought Ancillary Justice several times now.

A bit of background. Ann Leckie’s tale is set in the far future where a human species called the Radchai are aggressively expanding through space. They are ruled by someone called Anaandar Mianaai, who has thousands of gentetically linked bodies. Their modus operandi is to continually expand by conquering a planet, winning over all the important nobility types and suppressing everyone else. Anyone who resists is either killed or turned into a kind of corpse soldier.

Thrown into this scenario is a pretty interesting protagonist called Breq. Spaceships are controlled by AIs and these ships also have ancillary troops made up of the aforementioned corpse soldiers. These soldiers are also controlled by the the AI of the vessel they serve and all have modifications that make them pretty tough in a scrap.

For reasons we don’t know at the start, the AI of a vessel known as the Justice of Torren is now reduced to just being just one ancillary soldier – Breq. What happened to the ship and all the other ancillaries is a mystery. Breq is on a mission to kill Anaander Mianaai and there is clearly something wrong going on with the Radchai as a whole.

Ancillary Justice is a great read. I can see why it won so many awards – the Hugo, Nebula and Arthur C Clarke Awards, to be precise. The world, customs and characters are well thought out and the writing is good. I was worried at first that the constant use of the pronoun ‘she’ for everyone would get annoying. Breq doesn’t really understand gender and has trouble distinguishing male from female, so calls everyone she. But actually it’s fine.

My only real gripe with the book that it is quite unevenly paced. There are some pretty slow moments followed by scenes where a ton of exciting things go on. When things happen, it is superb but then there will be a period where people are just chilling and worrying about gloves and tea.

Having said that, the book is well paced enough that I read it in a couple of days and it has weirdly stuck in my head ever since. If you fancy a space opera that is a little different from the norm, then Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie is definitely worth a try. The next two books of the trilogy are already on my kindle.

 

The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke

The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke

The City and the Stars is a rewrite of Arthur C. Clarke’s first ever book – Against the Fall of Night. And it’s bloody good.

The story revolves a city called Diaspar that has been around for a billion years. Which is a bugger of a long time. Diaspar has hardly changed at all in that period and its populace, who all live for 1000 year chunks before going back into storage for a bit, all frolic and play games, create art, and shag each other. Sounds pretty awesome right?

Enter Alvin. Alvin’s a young lad just out of his teens and like all of his ilk throughout history, he feels a little out of place. Diaspar has no outward facing windows and everyone in the city seems to suffer from massive agoraphobia. It turns out Alvin really is a bit different from others and once he finds out a little about himself and Diaspora he realizes he wants more. He wants to explore the desert wastelands that seem to cover the Earth. Is Diaspar really all there is?

Spoiler: No. There’s a ton of exciting stuff.

Arthur C. Clarke wrote The City and the Stars in 1956. At the start of the book the young types are all playing a game that is uncannily like Virtual Reality Dungeons and Dragons. When they finish playing they are all just in their room and they start texting and chatting to each other all over the city. That’s pretty damn prescient.

The whole city is run and managed by a computer that has no moving parts. It’s walls are adorned with screens that show artwork that people vote on to decide if it is liked enough. This was written before Sputnik went up and computers were the size of Iceland. It’s like Clarke is just showing off. Quite frankly the book could have been written last week, it has aged that well.

Many have described it as Clarke’s greatest book. I would definitely have to disagree with that. It’s a great read and would feature in my top 10 of his work but not the best, or even top 3. (Check Childhood’s End, 2001, Rendezvous with Rama, and more.)

The story and ideas within are superb, but for some reason the pace seemed a bit off to me. The characters aren’t fully developed either, but this is a novel of exploration and ideas and so those aspects are a bit more peripheral. These are just minor niggles that I feel obliged to make in a review.

The City and the Stars is a great book, with great ideas, and is great fun. Arthur C. Clarke is brilliant. Recommended.