Pretty Fucking Badass: Dave Reviews Ancillary Sword

Ancillary Sword
By Ann Leckie, performed by Adjoh Andoh
Length: 11 hours, 44 minutes

There’s a scene somewhere toward the middle of Ancillary Sword that I can’t get out of my head, despite having listened to the audiobook a couple months ago. Visiting a space station, newly appointed fleet commander Breq comes across a station guard with a civilian in an illegal choke hold, rebukes the guard, and orders him to stand down or face immediate consequences. It turns out that this is standard procedure for the Imperial force on the station when dealing with such undesirables.

You might’ve guessed where I’m going with this: it’s kind of impossible for me to think about this book and that scene in particular without thinking about Eric Garner’s death.

This is, of course, completely unfair. Leckie wrote the book long before a New York police officer choked Garner to death. I even listened to the book prior to learning of Garner’s death. And yet, now I can’t separate the way life and fiction collide with each other, and in Breq, I see a character who is an agent of social change we’re often without. Throughout the book, Breq finds herself aiding those who are otherwise stepped on by the Radch’s imperialism, despite now being a Fleet Commander of the empire. It’s as if Tom Joad got the chance to go into space instead of Buck Rodgers, and is hellbent on making the Empire a better place.

So how is the book? Very, very good. It moves  slower at first than its predecessor at the start, and the structure is more linear. Breq is also changed, and throughout the relationships she has and witnesses – with a ship she cannot connect with the way she once connected with her captain, with another ancillary faithful to its unworthy commanders, with a young officer forced against her will to become an ancillary of Anaander Miannaai’s, we experience all the grief and heartache, all the loneliness and longing Breq suffers after being cutoff from her other ancillaries and her captain in Ancillary Justice.  It’s maybe not as flashy, but Leckie works overtime peeling away layers of relationship and it’s simply stunning.

There’s also a genitalia festival, which really can’t have anything to do with the long discussion of Leckie’s use of pronouns with Ancillary Justice, since this book was written before that one actually came out. Still. All those brightly colored penises makes you wonder if Leckie herself is a little omniscient, in a very amusing way.

With the change from Recorded Books to Hachette, Adjoh Andoh took over narrating duties for the series, and I couldn’t be any more pleased. To my ears, the prior narrator sounded somewhat stiff with awkward rhythm and enunciation, and while that could be explained away due to the character of Breq, it didn’t sit as well in my ears. But Andoh makes it all work – she manages to sound smart, dangerous, and lonely – basically, exactly how I imagined Breq’s voice in my head. I’m really pleased with the change, and I’m excited to hear Andoh read Ancillary Mercy.

Ancillary Sword is an excellent follow-up to Ancillary Justice, and makes me very eager for the final book to come out, because these books are just so fantastic. In the first chapters of the book, the Mercy of Kalr observes Breq doing target practice and Seivarden chuckles and says “Fleet Commander is pretty fucking bad ass.”

Which strikes me as an excellent summation of Leckie’s novel.

Special thanks to Hachette for providing me with a review copy of this audiobook.

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4 Responses to Pretty Fucking Badass: Dave Reviews Ancillary Sword

  1. montsamu says:

    I really enjoyed this audiobook, for the reasons you mention as well as:

    * Andoh singing the songs that Breq collects!
    * Such a tighter plot than the first book (which I also loved) with primarily: a ship, a space station, and a planet

  2. Dave says:

    Andoh’s voice just seemed much better suited to the character and story, IMO.

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