Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Book Review Club - Ancillary Justice

Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
science fiction

I am no longer a closet-case sci-fi fan. This is my third sci-fi review this year. I think it's time to face facts. I am a sci-fi junkie!

I looked forward to reading Ancillary Justice when I'd seen it won the Hugo and Nebula awards. I cut my sci-fi teeth on the likes of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles and Frank Herbert's Dune in between installments of Little House on the Prairie. That is the seventies in a nutshell. And I figured, if Leckie could beat Andy Weir's The Martian, which I love, in the awards category, I was about to fall in love again.

Let's just say Ancillary Justice and I got off to a rocky start. It was not love at first sight. In fact, the novel frustrated me  (incidentally, it was the same when I first met my husband).

Basic plot - a space ship decides to take revenge on the leader of the culture that made - and ultimately attempts to destroy - it (Ancillary Justice, not my marriage; it's still happily intact).

It's fascinating stuff. AI taken to a whole new level. However, the AI can't decipher female from male and so refers to everyone as "she". Sometimes, gender is specified, but then the ship reverts to calling said characters "she". For me, it made connecting with characters really hard. And that made me wonder, why does gender matters in story? Or rather, does gender matter in story? Should it matter? What does Leckie gain by making her story more or less gender neutral?

I haven't finished figuring all of this out, but I have come to the conclusion that for the story, by making everyone gender neutral, characters become sentient beings. That's it. They have flaws and quirks, but in remaining gender neutral, they never became much deeper than that. This may, in part, have to do with the boundaries of my hermeneutics. I live in a world in which, for the most part, the gender of any person I interact with, is clear. With that comes mounds of unspoken data.  Without that, I have to rethink my world. That is what Leckie forced me, as a reader, to do in her novel. I had to see it through a different lens, a new lens, one I haven't completely finished sanding down yet, and won't, without further interaction.

The absence of gender imploded my hermeneutic structure of interpretation. It made me feel uneasy. And it's kept me feeling uneasy. And thinking. In other words, it's genius.

For more great reads, visit Barrie Summy's website. She's got a bushelful!


Linda McLaughlin said...

Hm, interesting question about gender. I would find that confusing, too, I think, but it gave you something to ponder. The best speculative fiction leaves us with something new or different to consider. Glad you liked the book in the end.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Very interesting observations on gender-neutral beings. I had never thought about it before.

Rose said...

I'm not a fan of science fiction, so I probably won't read this. But it's true--some of the books that have forced me to think the most were science fiction. Interesting thoughts about the gender-neutral creatures; I think I would have a hard time relating to them, too.

Sarah Laurence said...

Hilarious review! I read similar sci fi growing up since my brother was a fan. This book reminds me of The Ship Who Sang: a human pilot falls in love with his sentient rocket ship, who was originally a woman. It made me question what makes us human and female. It also reminds me of one of my college roommates who always used She for God and in any instance where the gender of a person was unknown. I'm glad to hear all worked out with your husband in the end!

Barrie said...

Interesting sounding book, Stacy the Sci Fi Junkie! How fun that you were able to connect your book review to first meeting your husband. Ha!!! I may well read this book. I'm a bit of a closet sci fi junkie myself! Thanks for reviewing!

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

I love it! 'Time to face facts!'
I tend to go for mysteries, taking me out of my boring life, but I've read a few sci-fi, too!
(ツ) from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!