Tag Archives: ann leckie

Galactic Suburbia

In which Galactic Suburbia becomes a five-time Hugo nominated podcast… you can get us from itunes or at Galactic Suburbia 


Hugo shortlist

Also the Nommo shortlist (from the African Speculative Fiction Society)


Alisa: The 45th; S-Town; Sea Swept, Nora Roberts

Tansy: Lotus Blue, Cat Sparks; Buffy rewatch

Alex: New York 2140, Kim Stanley Robinson; the Ancillary series, Ann Leckie; season 2 and most of 3 of Person of Interest; Last Cab to Darwin

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

New Galactic Suburbia!

Feedback episode! Thanks so much for all your emails, tweets and voicemails. You can listen to us via iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Tansy: Andre Norton Sargasso of Space; I am Princess X, Cherie Priest; The Wicked & The Divine, by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie; Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.

Alex: Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie; Newt’s Emerald, Garth Nix; Zeroes, Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deb Biancotti.

You can Skype us to leave a short message about any of our topics or episodes, to be included in a future show.

03 90164171 (within Australia) +613 90164171 (from overseas)

Otherwise, please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Ancillary Mercy

This book was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.

Spoilers ahead for Ancillary Justice (reviews here and here – yes I loved it enough to review it the second time around) and Ancillary Sword.

Unknown-1Sooo… first thing to admit: it took me reading someone else’s review to realise that Justices, Swords and Mercies are all the sorts of ships that Breq is in charge of. How embarrassing that I did not realise that.

Secondly: yes, I love this series, I love Leckie’s work, I love Breq and the world she inhabits. My love is true and remains unshaken.

Further note: I’m just going with ‘she’ to refer to everyone, when I have to. I think there’s one person whose gender is actually confirmed (… maybe…insofar as that ever can be in these books) and it just does violence to my brain to go with he/she when Leckie herself (ahaha) goes with SHE. So nyer.

As with Justice to SwordMercy starts almost immediately Sword finishes off. I quite like this, since it means there doesn’t need to be any tedious filling in of blanks. It also means I’d like to see an omnibus edition where you can just read the whole lot, start to finish. It wouldn’t even be that much bigger than a complete edition of The Lord of the Rings. Breq continues to have issues with Anaander Mianaai, ruler of the Radch and therefore of civilisation as the Radch defines it… Continue reading →

Galactic Suburbia 119

Belated show notes!
In which there are fast cars, ancillary swords, Vote! Helsinki! t-shirts, feminist serial killer narratives and answer the all important question: was watching all of Lost worth it, Alisa? You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

Defying Doomsday funded!

Tiptree Award
Philip K Dick:

Alex’s plan for Hugo reading.

Upcoming episode: being ok with being feminist. Request for links! Send us vids, articles, book titles etc. to recommend to teens.

Vote for Helsinki for Worldcon 2017!

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Tansy: Avengers: Age of Ultron, DC: Convergence, The Fall (Netflix Original)
Alisa: Reign, Lost
Alex: Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie; Incandescence, Greg Egan; Book of Strange New Things, Michael Faber; Fast&Furious 7; Avengers: Age of Ultron

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Ancillary Sword

Spoilers for Ancillary Justice (first review and second review).

UnknownI loved this second book possibly not quite as much as the first, for which my love burns for its originality as well as its characters and action; but it’s a true love nonetheless, for a book once again dealing with complex issues without making them un-complex, and for characters who aren’t cardboard, and a plot that – stripped back – is really very straight forward but that kept me reading voraciously.

The issues are similar to Justice, as you would expect, although with a different emphasis. Of course the gender aspect is still there; yes I still found myself wondering whether that deadbeat was female or male, that that leader a man or a woman, and so on. A little bit less than when reading Justice, I hope, since I read this immediately after my re-read and I was a bit more in practise of just reading ‘she’ and remembering that genitalia is irrelevant. More importantly, and indeed driving the action to a much greater extent than in Justice, are the twinned notions of imperialism and colonialism. How does an empire genuinely make sure all of its new citizens are treated like the old ones? How does an empire deal with pre-existing racial and other tensions that are going to manifest even though you’re all now officially the same? And then you add corruption to the mix and of course things will not be pretty. And THEN, into that mix, you add someone new – someone with a powerful sense of justice – and you watch how things fall, and which things blow up.

It amazed me to discover that Leckie is an American, what with her Radchaai obsession with tea.

Breq continues to develop across this novel. Justice saw her get some form of justice, and then has her direction changed by Mianaai herself. She has more time, here, to reflect on the pain of losing Awn, and the pain of losing the majority of herself; there are some intriguing moments where Leckie thinks through what it would be like to be that one, remaining, very small part of something previously so large. How does that one small segment develop an identity? Does that experience bestow compassion or impatience with others experiencing similar issues of dislocation?

I was pleased to have Seivarden sticking around, and not be so whingy as in the first. I am very pleased with the new characters introduced; they provide neat foils for Breq and Seivarden. One baby lieutenant with issues (oh how I love the discussions of baby lieutenants and how they are brought up by ships and crews)

My prediction for the third book: it will have to deal with the alien Presger, as well as the outcome of the civil war within Mianaai herself. In fact, I don’t really see how this can be resolved in just one more book. MOAR BOOKS, LECKIE.

Ancillary Justice

This is my second time around in reading this book. I knew I needed to reread it before reading Ancillary Sword. You can read my original review over here.

9780356502403-177x177Multiple spoilers ahead!

I still found the almost exclusive use of ‘she’ to be quite disconcerting, and I feel like I noticed those few times that someone is ‘properly’ gendered more than I did the first time I read it. I still found myself trying to pick gender clues from behaviour and descriptions, which of course says something about me… and also quite a lot about Leckie, since I really don’t think she enables such a reading of anyone. I have absolutely no clue what sort of genitalia Lieutenant Awn had.

Because I wasn’t so staggered by the gender issue this time I believe I felt the imperialism/colonialism aspect more. The Radch is a monumentally arrogant civilisation – and I felt very keenly those discussions about how such a sentence would be constructed in their language, since the word for ‘civilised’ IS the word FOR their civilisation, and for themselves: Radch. So this arrogance, this narrow vision, is constructed into their language – while I’m not a complete subscriber to the notion that language creates reality, it certainly has an impact on our perception of such. Leckie herself notes the similarities between the Radch and the Roman Empire, which is useful both for the yes and the no. Make new peoples citizens, subsume/ align their gods with your, but use ‘corpse soldiers’ to help make it work and have a bunch of apparently random cultural hang-ups.

I loved the gloves thing this time. I could drive myself mad trying to figure out how a culture develops a horror of bare hands except in the most intimate of circumstances.

I’m not sure I noticed the descriptions of skin colour last time (oh the advantages of being white). Much like the people of Earthsea, the Radch are dark-skinned… which is neither here nor there in the book’s greater scheme of plot and character and theme, but is nonetheless important in the greater scheme of, you know, the world.

Another aspect I feel I appreciate more deeply this time around is the religion. Everyone, basically, is religious. All of the ships are named after religious figures; all of the decades of soldiers likewise. There is an expectation that senior soldiers will pray and cast the omens each morning. Each new planet has their own religion whose parallels with the Radch’s own must be found – and there’s even discussion of a problematic, exclusively-monotheistic bunch who have caused issues in the past, who basically appear atheist to the Radch: either horrifying or bemusing, depending on your attitude. Not everyone is especially devout, but there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that religion belongs in humanity and in space and everywhere there are humans. This is refreshing.

Finally, the plot. Even though I did have some memory of how everything was going to play out (that notorious memory of mine), I still found it gripping. The massacre of civilians to the death of Awn, the gradual change in Seivarden, the drama at Omaugh: it’s not the most fast-paced space opera I’ve ever read, but it is definitely compelling and in no way just a vehicle for discussing Important Issues.

Galactic Suburbia 107

In which, Alisa and Tansy debrief Alex on their Worldcon adventure: The Ritz, the books, the people, the Hugos, the ribbons, the concrete wasteland, and the jet lag. Get us at iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

Here are the magic stats from the Hugo Awards.

If you still don’t have your copy of Kaleidoscope, here are some places you can buy it.

Check out the full Ustream footage of the Hugo awards.

Fakecon in all its glory

Tansy’s post-Loncon Jet Lag Links

Alisa’s Debriefs:

1 – Yarn Edition
2 – Dealer’s Room
3 – The Ritz
4 – The Hugos

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Galactic Suburbia 93!!

In which 2014 is officially a thing. Who saw that coming?

We’re back! How did you spend your summer? (yes, we know some of you spent it having winter, but honestly, is that our fault?)

Galactic Suburbia returns for a fresh new year of culture consumed, awards commentary, feminist snark and adorable baby gurgles.

Culture Consumed:

Alex: On the Steel Breeze, Alastair Reynolds; Riddick; The Deep: Here be Dragons; Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales (ed Paula Guran)

Alisa: Haven S1 and S2; Star Trek; Kaleidoscope submissions (PhD)

Tansy: Terry Pratchett: The Witches (board game), The Hour Season 1, A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan; When we Wake; Courtney Milan romance novels.

Pet subject: Gearing Up for Hugo Nominations – what we’ve read, what we recommend, and what we still plan to get to before the deadline.

Alisa: Reading – Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar, Coldest Girl in Cold Town by Holly Black

Alex: Saga; Ancillary Justice; Iron Man 3; still to watch Game of Thrones s3

Tansy: Still to read: Hild by Nicola Griffith, The Red by Linda Nagata, some novellas. Liz Bourke’s Sleeping with Monsters (Best Related Work or fan writer? Why doesn’t the Hugo have an Atheling?) Kirstyn McDermott’s Caution: Contains Small Parts. Supurbia (Graphic Story); The World’s End.

Galactic Suburbia Award!!

for activism and/or communication that advances the feminist conversation in the field of speculative fiction

Send us your suggestions and thoughts on who we should be looking at for the year that was 2013: blog posts, podcasts, GOH speeches and other awesome people talking about feminist stuff in interesting ways.

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Galactic Suburbia 91

mspacmanIn which Alisa has a baby, and Alex & Tansy put a bow on it. Not the baby. The podcast!

Birth Announcement: Welcome to Mackenzie Charlotte & all our love and best wishes to the recovering and delighted new parents, Alisa and Chris.

World Fantasy Awards
British Fantasy Awards

Culture Consumed:

Alex: Feminist Frequency’s Tropes vs Women in Video Games; Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie; Menial: Skilled Labor in SF, Kelly Jennings and Shay Darrach

Tansy: Nanowrimo! Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell; Horrible Histories; Wife in Space by Neil Perryman, The Time Machine (Destiny of the Doctor), 1963: Fanfare of the Common Men, The Space Race, The Assassination Games; Night of the Doctor

INK BLACK MAGIC BY TANSY RAYNER ROBERTS available now from Fablecroft, Amazon & bookshops who order it in.


Doctor Who Women on the Radio including Tansy

Pet subject: SFF for children (they cross genres more easily than adults, basically)

Alex: Victor Kelleher (especially Taronga); Playing Beatie Bow, Ruth Park; Riddle of the Trumpalar, Judy Bernard-Waite; The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien

Tansy: Diana Wynne Jones; Robyn Klein (Halfway Across the Galaxy and Turn Left); Which Witch, Eva Ibbotson; Margaret Mahy, Aliens in the Family and all her books about pirates; Ruth Chew; Five Children and It, E. Nesbit; Edward Eagar (Half Magic and Seven Day Magic – stories for kids who love to read and know how to manage a magical adventure!); comics like Gunnerkrigg Court, Zita the Space Girl, Betty & Veronica spin-offs. The Case of the Origami Yoda bridging fantasy and reality!

Also Possum Magic, Magic Pudding, and other Australian picture-book classics! From England, Charlie and Lola by Lauren Child and various books such as Fairy Shopping by Sally Gardner are appreciated for their gorgeous collage art as much as the stories.

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Ancillary Justice

9780356502403-177x177Firstly: OMG I loved this book so very much.

Secondly: a real review. There are some spoilers, but nothing too major. I promise you will still have your breath stolen by many of the events in the book.

So, let me get “the gender thing” out of the way first. I debated leaving this ’til last, because it’s what a lot of other people are apparently fixated on… but for that very reason, it seemed disingenuous of me not to engage. Thus: the narrator of the story, Breq, is from a culture that does not use gendered pronouns. When Breq is dealing with cultures that do use gendered pronouns, there are language problems – troubling enough that it causes Breq quite some stress. And when Breq is thinking/speaking to the audience, rather than rendering pronouns as ‘it’, Leckie has opted for ‘she’. This, obviously, presents some rather intriguing aspects. Except for a few times when Breq is corrected, the reader actually has no idea whether the other characters presented are male or female. I don’t actually think we know whether Breq‘s body is female or male, hence my hesitance to use a pronoun (Breq would use ‘she’ and roll her eyes at me). Why is this interesting? Well, we don’t know whether the leaders have boobs or balls. We don’t know whether the soldiers dying having tits or testes, and we don’t know which the person who ordered those deaths has, either.* And I think this probably changes the way the reader reacts, at least in some instances. More intimately, we have no idea whether the physical and otherwise personal relationships presented are hetero or homo, which is relevant if it matters to you; at any rate the lack of knowledge is surprising, occasionally frustrating, always intriguing. And when any or all of the people might be women, you’re left with the conclusion that women are actually capable of doing/being all of the positions presented – up to and including leading a galaxy-spanning society. Who knew? In the lack of gendered pronouns Leckie is making a call that gender doesn’t matter – except that in choosing ‘she’, this is somewhat undercut.

Look, I’m not actually a gender studies scholar. Probably there are other things that Leckie is doing that I didn’t really pick up on. But as a way of unbalancing the reader that works perfectly within the context of the novel, it’s a brilliant choice; and it also does that thing that great SF should do: it forced me to reconsider my own world.

On to other things: and speaking of unbalancing the reader that works perfectly within the context of the novel, what is with the gloves?? This is a brilliantly clever, and devastating, move on Leckie’s part. Breq comes from the Radchaai, and within the Radchaai everyone wears gloves. If you don’t wear gloves, you are regarded with horror. Why? It’s never explained. It’s like a man getting around in a Jane Austen novel not wearing a shirt; it’s clearly the wrong thing to do, but it’s not going to get him arrested – and Austen wouldn’t bother to explain why it’s a problem because surely you understand? Sheer. Brilliance.

Ancillary Justice does not follow a neat linear narrative. There is a chronological thread – it follows Breq as she (all right, I give up; it’s just easier, ok? and it’s what she would use) searches for something she needs, in an effort to right a wrong. Along the way she encounters someone rather unexpected, who brings a whole pile of unlooked for problems. Alongside and around that thread, the reader  lives through the memories of what has brought Breq to this path. The main thing to know, in order to understand what’s going on (and this is on the back cover, so it’s not a spoiler), is that Breq wasn’t always Breq. Until twenty years ago, the body known as Breq was an ancillary of the AI controlling the Justice of Toren, a massive ship of the Radchaai involved in annexing and subduing planets – ostensibly for their own, but mostly for the Radchaai, good. Thus Breq’s memories are mostly those of a few-thousand-year-old artificial intelligence. And being an ancillary means that her body is human, and was co-opted for… duty? inhabitation? use? by the AI.

This issue of ancillaries is one that the book is not obsessed by, but does deal with seriously via several of the characters who respond poorly to the very idea of them. I liked that the story didn’t develop into something too preachy, but I also appreciated that having raised such a frankly horrifying idea, Leckie did not simply leave it as a necessary-but-evil, or evidence-the-Radchaai-are-dreadful, sign. Instead, it’s as complicated an issue as the annexations themselves, because they really do bring benefits to the planets colonised – as other colonisations have – but whether that’s worth all the pain and bloodshed… well. That’s something we’re still processing, to some extent.**

The blurb of my copy paints this as predominantly a revenge story, and I get where that’s coming from. But it lacks nuance, too. Breq is indeed looking for revenge. But she’s also looking for answers – to questions about events in her past, questions about the Radchaai itself, questions about how she can, should, exist as this solitary body rather than as a near-omnipotent (in a constrained space) being. Therefore even if the novel were purely focussed around her, it’s more complicated than just “rargh I get you for what you done to me!” But, of course, as the above demonstrates this is a far more nuanced and complex novel than that. It touches on issues of colonisation, and of gender; it looks at what it means to inhabit a body, as well as to inhabit a planet. And it looks at how religion is co-opted for different purposes, too.

The inclusion of religion startled me, and – when I got over that – made me very happy. It’s something I’ve complained about in the past, here and on Galactic Suburbia: the lack of religion, treated seriously, in science fiction. Seriously people: do you think that just because humanity lives beyond the Earth, they’re going to somehow move beyond a desire for an explanation beyond what science can provide? I don’t think so. Leckie’s inclusion of religion, and the exploration of how religion and colonisation work together, was welcome and clever and shows how much thought she has put into this universe.

This next bit is for those who’ve read Iain M Banks’ Culture novels. I can’t help but assume that at least part of this novel is in dialogue with the Culture. There’s the fact that AIs are in charge of ships and stations, and interact with their human inhabitants. I know that this happens in other stories, but there was something that made me feel a distinct connection to the Culture Minds. That said, these AIs are not really like the Culture Minds. For a start, they’re not meant to have personalities at all. And there’s a very clear point in the story where Breq reflects on the fact that the ships don’t really talk to each other any more; they’re too old, and they’re bored by each other. This is in complete contrast to Banks’ positively verbose Minds, who can usually hardly keep their traps shut. Then, of course, there’s the use of ancillaries – actual bodies – instead of drones, which is… interesting. And reflective of the fact that the Radchaai is a far more problematic society than the Culture, and possibly reflective of the way such a human society is more likely to act (aggressively, rather than with the amused benevolence characteristic of the Culture). It’s entirely possible that Leckie has never read Banks, I guess, but for me this works really nicely in conversation with a series of books that I also adore.

Finally, then: this is what I want my SF to be like from now on. Smart; fast-paced; intriguing characters; believable world. And intellectual depth for added joy.


*I do understand this is reductionist; I’m going for effect here. Additionally, there doesn’t seem to be an indication of these societies going in for large-scale, Culture-esque body shaping, so it seems to me that these crude indicators would still be considered relevant by Breq’s contemporaries.

**I mean on a global scale, not an individual scale. Please don’t yell at me for defending colonisation, because I’m certainly not; I’m an historian, I know and agree with most of your points.

You can get Ancillary Justice from Fishpond. This book was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.