Thursday, December 03, 2015

Ancillary Mercy

"Ancillary Mercy", by Ann Leckie, is the 3rd book in the Ancillary series. I blogged on the 1st 2 books here and here. Amazon says the book is 368 pages long. Hmmm, Amazon has put "(Imperial Radch)" after the title of these three books, although that phrase appears nowhere on the cover or title page???

As I started reading the book, my first thought was, "oh no, here we go, more drinking tea and obsessing over china tea services", and was actually kind of dreading going on. But then, I got totally turned around by this passage, regarding the name of a ship:

"What sort of name is that? Didn't Notai ships usually have long names? Like Ineluctable Ascendancy of Mind Unfolding or The Finite Contains the Infinite Contains the Finite?

Both of those ship names were fictional, characters in more or less melodramatic entertainments.

It's an Iain M. Banks Culture novels tribute! Yay! That is the future I want to live in, a post-scarcity, socialist, anarchist utopia.

So that got me rethinking the whole series. The protagonist is an ancillary - a human body wired up to be a remote peripheral to the AI mind of a starship - who is the only survivor when his ship is destroyed. His mind is that of the ship, so a starship AI is the main character of the series. In addition to the ship AIs, every space station is run by an AI.

It's kind of like The Culture v0.3, with a cloned and networked tyrant governing rather than benevolent AIs.

With that mindset, I greatly enjoyed finishing the book. There is a zany alien ambassador who is fun. The conceit of these novels is that the society is genderless. Everyone is a she, and they sure present as women to me. Take for example these passages, the 1st from Chapter 8, the 2nd from Chapter 9.

Why should she not apologize for being oversensitive?

You've been awake for nearly an hour and you've been crying almost the whole time.

So I was shocked by this sentence in Chapter 5, page 4 of 23 in my eBook:
You'd be proud of him.
??? I presume this was a typo. I think that is the downside of a gimmick - that a slight error in execution leaves the reader wondering if it was intentional or not. I think that, algorithmically, it would have been better to do genderless by alternating between male and female pronouns. That might wind up being totally unreadable. I wonder if she tried it that way? Note that ancillaries are referred to as "it", so the genderless pronoun is spoken for.

I think next I am going to read a free collection of short stories from Microsoft. Still 25 unread books on my iPad, so I think I'm going to keep reading more junk until the new year.

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