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#CBR7 Review #3-4 – Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword

Ancillary Justice

Target: Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1) and Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2)

Profile: Science Fiction, Space Opera

After Action Report:

The Imperial Radch series is a relatively simple little space opera, in the classic sense of the term.  Spanning hundreds, if not thousands of years, multiple star systems and a variety of cultural influences, it’s a series firmly rooted in the tropes of its genre.  While Ancillary Justice does wonderful things with those ideas and concepts, building a surprisingly compelling setting and cast, the series as a whole is somewhat underwhelming.  Lacking the bombast of James S. A. Corey’s The Expanse or the vision of Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space, Imperial Radch sits in an uncomfortable place between top-tier SF and the middle of the road dross that clogs the shelves at Barnes and Noble.

Ancillary Justice follows Breq, also known as Justice of Toren, One Esk, a surviving fragment of the controlling AI of an interstellar warship.  A portion of Justice examines Breq’s life as the ship Justice of Toren before it was destroyed, while the main narrative picks up after Breq has been on her own for years, executing a long plan that might make up for some of the mistakes she made as Justice of Toren.  The PoV snaps back and forth between the present and the past until we witness the moment of Justice of Toren’s destruction.  After which we shift entirely to Breq on her mission of justice and vengeance.

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#CBR7 Review #2 – Cairo

CairoTarget: G. Willow Wilson’s Cairo.  Art by M.K. Perker

Profile: Modern Fantasy, Urban, Middle Eastern, Graphic Novel

After Action Report:

Cairo is, in many ways, a prototype for G. Willow Wilson’s later novel, Alif the Unseen.  They are stories of clashing cultures. Both the complex internal clash between Islamic hardliners and the culturally diverse youth of the Middle East, and the more external, if no less complex conflict between encroaching western culture and the entrenched lifestyles of Muslims.  By necessity, Cairo is more spare, crashing through a much simpler plot at breakneck pace, but it manages to hit the same powerful notes that Alif does.

The comic starts as the story of Ashraf, an Egyptian drug smuggler who makes regular runs across the border into Israel.  On one such run, he wrecks his car on a stoned camel (exactly as funny as it sounds), loses his shipment and ends up stealing a hookah from his employer to make some fast cash.  But the hookah is home to a jinn, Shams, a beneficent creature who owns a box that could give control of the entire Middle East to anyone who possesses it.

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#CBR7 Review #1 – Ready Player One

Ready Player OneTarget: Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One

Profile: Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Pop Culture, Adventure!

After Action Report:

Ready Player One is one of those books that’s been sitting on the shelves at Barnes and Nobel taunting me with nearly universal acclaim for longer than I care to think about.  Not only that, but it falls clearly into my ‘near future, speculative fiction’ bailiwick and even focuses on video game culture, so I really have no excuse as to why I’m only just now adding it to my library.  And that’s a shame, because it really is quite good.

Any returning readers will recall that I intensely dislike reading books with good press or recommendations, mostly because it means that I’m suddenly holding the author (and the book) to much higher standards than are reasonable, but also because it messes with the way that I think about writing these reviews.  I feel pressure to generate ‘original’ criticism, which puts my tendency to nitpick into overdrive.

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