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Nicely done, ANCILLARY JUSTICE

First! First book of the year read! (I have to start somewhere...) I borrowed Ann Leckie's 2013 science fiction novel Ancillary Justice not knowing a thing about it, just knowing SF fans I know had recommended it. It's award-winning and it's Part One of a trilogy, so there's more I'll get to read later.

And the book pulls off a good, satisfying trick: it describes a future much different from ours, in the way artificial intelligence and humans are linked. As the back-cover blurb explains, the narrator/main character is an artificial intelligence which used to be housed in, literally, a spaceship, while also being linked to hundreds or even thousands of people, all of whose sensory inputs were being sent to that intelligence in that ship. The novel shows us that this character is not linked this way anymore — her connection to the ship was severed, the ship was destroyed, and she wound up experiencing things only through a single human body — and it flashes back to the events leading up to that severance, and early chapters alternate between that long flashback and the current events she's living through. It's complicated: complicated enough to suggest this vastly different future, but just — just — explained enough to make enough sense.

I knew at several moments in Ancillary Justice that I wasn't getting the full context of a moment. I also knew I didn't have to. Again, context enough: a hard trick to pull off in hard SF if you want to avoid lazy, "As you know, Bob" exposition.

Also, I've been told the other two books in the trilogy are at least a little and perhaps a lot easier to follow, so I'll look forward to reading Parts 2 and 3.

Meanwhile, my next books are Edgar Rice Burroughs pulp (The Land that Time Forgot) and a collection of Maya Angelou's poetry. Keepin' it varied!

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