So I haven’t been impressed by recent Hugo winners. I thought 2011’s winner (Willis’ Blackout/All Clear) was bloated and frustrating, 2012’s winner (Walton’s Among Others) a decent but not great work by a great author, and 2013’s winner (Scalzi’s Redshirts) literally unreadable.
Well, 2014 turned that around in a huge way with Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, which is one of the all-time great Hugo winners and an instant classic.
Before I read the book, I’d heard enough about it to know that I’d find it a “worthy” book, and it is that. It does interesting things with gender (the viewpoint character’s language is ungendered, so all characters are referred to as “she”), and its main focus is colonialism, with all the associated tangle of race and class and power and justice that’s tied up with that. So my only concern was whether it might end up as a merely respectable book, one that’s wholly admirable but not lovable.
Turns out I needn’t have worried. Its “worthy” content is tied up inextricably with classic (yet original) SFnal world-building—galactic empires, ship AIs, multi-node minds—richly developed characters, and a complex, intrigue-laden plot, in a way that somehow manages to even be better than the sum of its excellent parts. No matter what you look for in SF, you’re going to find it in this book.
Sorry, I should have said “these books,” because I’m so late on my booklogging that the sequel, Ancillary Sword, is out now, too. I think it might be slightly less brilliant than Ancillary Justice just because of the inherent loss of novelty that comes with a sequel, but it’s still excellent. In many ways, it reminded me of the better Vorkosigan novels in tone and plot, though the main character is kind of the anti-Miles.
So yeah, don’t let the Hugo award put you off—these are superb books, and if you haven’t already read them, you should remedy that. Very highly recommended.