Friday, May 29, 2015

Ancillary Justice and The Curve of Binding Energy

In a vain attempt to get back to something like regular posting while still grappling with the Hugo awards, for today's Book Beginnings on Friday, hosted by Rose City Reader, I am going to post the beginning of Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie to kick things off ...

The body lay naked and facedown, a deathly gray, spatters of blood staining the snow around it. It was minus fifteen degrees Celsius and a storm had passed just hours before. The snow stretched smooth in the wan sunrise, only a few tracks leading into a nearby ice-block building. A tavern. Or what passed for a tavern in this town. 

Ancillary Justice is last year's Hugo award winner for Best Novel, and this year the sequel Ancillary Sword is one of the nominated works. I bought Ancillary Justice last year, well before it was announced as the winner of the Hugo, based on the buzz I was hearing and because I thought that my husband would like it (he did).  I have to confess, I didn't get around to reading it - my TBR mountain is full of non-fiction books that I am reading for work, books that I read to find things that I think my kids would like, and other things that have been gently teetering there for ages - I just recently realized that new adult fiction has gotten a bit of a short shrift for awhile. 

But, once I decided to dive into Hugo reading - and after thinking about it for a bit - I decided that I should read Ancillary Justice before reading Ancillary Sword. I was rather torn about this - on one hand, I think a book should be able to stand on its own to be an award winner, while on the other hand, there is only one extra book to read - it is not like I am trying to read the entire Wheel of Time series for an award (eek!). Plus I already own the book. So - even though my husband assured me that Sword could be read as a stand alone - I decided that I would read Justice first. At least that way I could say I have read a recent Hugo award winning novel, right ?  

Good grief - I just realized that I have the wining novels for 2013 and 2012 and haven't read them yet either. I am going to blame this on Connie Willis.  I did read the 2011 winner Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis (I read them both as soon as they came out) and, well, to put this politely - I was utterly infuriated by it. (See Books that Made you NUTS !  if you are interested. Just thinking about it makes me start mentally ranting. Has Willis never even seen a map of London!!!! Argh! #*%&*#! ) 

To stop the ranting, I am going to skip to page 56 of Ancillary Justice for The Friday 56 hosted at Freda's Voice ...

I watched Lieutenant Awn see Lieutenant Skaaiat spring the trap Jan Shinnan had walked into moments ago. "On a station," Lieutenant Awn said, "the AI sees everything." 
"So much easier to manage," agreed Lieutenant Skaaiat happily. "Almost no need for security at all." That wasn't quite true, but this was no time to point that out. 
Jen Taa set down her utensil. "Surely the AI doesn't see everything." Neither lieutenant said anything. "Even when you...?"
"Everything," answered Lieutenant Awn. "I assure you, citizen." 

To sum up  - I really liked Ancillary Justice. Grand scale space opera is usually not my cup of tea, but the author avoided the things that would make the book unreadable for me while throwing in some really cool ideas. The concept of a starship AI made up of many joined minds located in physically separate bodies - severely cool. And where the ancillaries come from ? Severely horrifying. Makes for an amazingly interesting protagonist. 

It all added up to an engrossing narrative that I was fully engaged in. My suspension of disbelief was strained a couple times by 'amazing coincidences,' but the narrative was solid enough that nothing threw me out of the story and I liked how things pulled together.  I can understand how it won last year. 

More to the point, I am looking forward to Ancillary Sword. I am really interested in seeing what happens next.

I almost forgot!  I usually do both a fiction and a non-fiction book for this! Sheesh - last semester really wreaked havoc with my postings. Go figure.

Most of the stuff I have kicking around near me I don't want to cope with (I am taking a couple weeks off from environmental disaster) so - ah! - tangentially related to part of my problem with the Three Body Problem and more directly related to some of the background research I was doing for that interview I did concerning Japanese Balloon Bombs ...

for nonfiction, here is beginning of The Curve of Binding Energy by John McPhee. This is a book about the life and work of Theodore (Ted) B. Taylor, a theoretical physicist who led the team that designed the largest pure fission bomb ever detonated. He became a advocate for nuclear disarmament. If you want to talk about disaffected people worried about worthiness of the human race - theoretical physicists are a much more complex and interesting group than the author of Three Body Problem gives them credit for.  Anyhow from page one we have  ...
To many people who have participated professionally in the advancement of the nuclear age, it seems not just possible but more and more apparent that nuclear explosions will again take place in cities. It seem to them likely, almost beyond quibbling, that more nations now have nuclear bombs than the six that have tested them, for it is hardly necessary to test a bomb in order to make it. There is also no particular reason the maker need be a nation. Smaller units could do it – groups of people with a common enemy. Just how few people could achieve the fabrication of an atomic bomb on their own is a question which opinion divides, ... 

And from page 56 ...
"...In those days, both of us were unsure. We were about the shyest people you ever met in the world. How we had the courage to talk to each other seemed a wonder sometimes. A sleepy college town was about our speed." They went to the beach, sat on a sand dune, and talked immortality. Within his enthusiasms, he could persuade her of almost anything, but with immortality she was somewhat bored. Ted took some getting used to. In their apartment in Berkeley, he would sit and look straight at a wall for vast tracts of time. She feared that there was something wrong, and that she might be at fault; but he was simply thinking.

 Happy Friday - have a lovely weekend! 


  1. I actually really loved Ancillary Justice. I was kind of late to the series and only started it this year, but I was really surprised by how much I liked it. Now I want to get Ancillary Sword before the next one comes out. :)

  2. Oh wow, both of these books sound really good although it's the beginning of Ancillary Justice that has really caught my attention! 'The Curve of Binding Energy' is, however, a stunning title! Thanks for sharing :) I hope you have  great weekend!
    My Friday Meme
    Juli @ Universe in Words

  3. Highly suspenseful beginning for that fiction book. Sounds good!
    Happy weekend!

  4. Both look good. The first one has me intrigued. I wonder what happened and I want to follow those tracks and find out.

    My 56 -


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