Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch No.3) – Ann Leckie
Breq once planned to destroy her empress, Anaander Mianaai, but now that the many facets of Mianaai are busy destroying each other, it falls to Breq to keep what peace she can. She has made friends and allies on Athoek Station, and on the planet below – if she can protect them from the violent turmoil exploding elsewhere in the empire, she will do whatever it takes. In this, she has a tentative alliance with the space station’s AI, but as the last fragment of an AI herself, Breq’s motives are called into question on all sides. When it comes right down to it, what exactly is she?
This conclusion to Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy, which began with Ancillary Justice, cannot be read independently and I suspect I would have got more out of it if the other two books had been fresher in my mind – as it was some aspects of the plot, such as Seivarden and Ekalu’s everything, were of no interest to me. Having the entire trilogy narrated from Breq’s semi-omnipotent perspective allows for interesting insights, but it does the human secondary characters no favours, drawing them in such broad strokes that their interactions with each other lack vitality and almost infantilising them at times. This contrasts sharply against the non-human characters, who stand on much stronger ground and have many fantastic moments together. I loved Leckie’s exploration of articial intelligences, and towards the end the book pulled together very satisfyingly, though there are plenty of loose ends for her to come back to if she wants to write another series in this universe. I, for one, vote for more Presger.