Ancillary Justice

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Ancillary Justice
Cover art
AuthorAnn Leckie
Cover artistJohn Harris
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction
PublisherOrbit Books
Publication date
1 October 2013
Media typePrint (paperback)
Audiobook (read by Adjoa Andoh)
AwardsHugo Award for Best Novel (2014)
Nebula Award for Best Novel (2014)
BSFA Award for Best Novel (2013)
Arthur C. Clarke Award (2014)
Locus Award for Best First Novel (2014)
Kitschies Golden Tentacle for best debut novel (2013)
Seiun Award for Best Translated Novel (2016)
Followed byAncillary Sword 

Ancillary Justice is a science fiction novel by the American writer Ann Leckie, published in 2013. It is Leckie's debut novel and the first in her Imperial Radch space opera trilogy, followed by Ancillary Sword (2014) and Ancillary Mercy (2015). The novel follows Breq—who is both the sole survivor of a starship destroyed by treachery and the vessel of that ship's artificial consciousness—as she seeks revenge against the ruler of her civilization. The cover art is by John Harris.

Ancillary Justice received critical praise and won the Hugo Award,[1] Nebula Award, BSFA Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award, and Locus Award for Best First Novel. It is the only novel to have won the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke awards.[2]

Two other novels, Provenance (2017) and Translation State (2023), and two short stories, "Night's Slow Poison" and "She Commands Me and I Obey", are set in the same fictional universe.[3][4]

Setting and synopsis[edit]

Ancillary Justice is a space opera set thousands of years in the future, where the principal power in human space is the expansionist Radch empire. The empire uses space ships controlled by AIs, who control human bodies ("ancillaries") to use as soldiers. The Radchaai do not distinguish people by gender, which Leckie conveys by using "she" pronouns for everybody, and by having the Radchaai main character guess, frequently incorrectly, when she has to use languages with gender-specific pronouns.

The narrative begins nearly twenty years after the disappearance of a Radch starship, the Justice of Toren, when the sole surviving ancillary (and a fragment of the Justice of Toren's consciousness), Breq, encounters an officer, Seivarden, who had been a lieutenant on the Justice of Toren 1,000 years earlier. The two are on an ice planet, and Seivarden is in precarious condition. The plot switches between two strands: Breq's "present-day" quest for justice for the Justice of Toren's destruction and flashbacks from 19 years earlier when the Justice of Toren was in orbit around the planet of Shis'urna, which was being formally brought into the Radchaai empire. The reader eventually finds out that the Justice of Toren's destruction was the result of a covert war between two opposed strands of consciousness of the Lord of the Radch, Anaander Mianaai, who uses multiple synchronized bodies to rule her far-flung empire. At the end of the novel, Breq associates herself with the more pacifistic aspect of Anaander Mianaai while waiting for an opportunity to exact her revenge.

Critical reception[edit]

The novel received widespread acclaim and recognition, but also some criticism. Russell Letson's Locus review appreciated the ambitious structure of Leckie's novel, which interweaves several past and present strands of action in a manner reminiscent of Iain M. Banks's Use of Weapons, and its engagement with the tropes of recent space opera as established by Banks, Ursula K. Le Guin, C. J. Cherryh and others. He concluded that "[t]his is not entry-level SF, and its payoff is correspondingly greater because of that."[5]

In the opinion of Genevieve Valentine, writing for NPR, the "assured, gripping and stylish" novel succeeded both on the large and on the small scale, as the tale of an empire and as a character study.[6]'s Liz Bourke praised Leckie's worldbuilding and her writing as "clear and muscular, with a strong forward impetus, like the best of thriller writing", concluding that Ancillary Justice was "both an immensely fun novel, and a conceptually ambitious one".[7]

Nina Allan's review in Arc was more critical: while she found "nothing lazy, cynical or even particularly commercial-minded" in the novel, she criticized its characterization and considered that its uncritical adoption of space opera tropes and the "disappointingly simple" ideas it conveyed (such as that empires are evil) made Ancillary Justice "an SF novel of the old school: tireless in its recapitulation of genre norms and more or less impenetrable to outsiders".[8]


Ancillary Justice won the following awards:

The novel was also nominated for the following awards:

  • Finalist for the Compton Crook Award for best first science fiction/fantasy/horror novel from the Baltimore Science Fiction Society.[16]
  • Named to the James Tiptree Jr. Award Honor List, for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender.[17]
  • Shortlisted for the Philip K. Dick Award for distinguished original science fiction paperback.[18]

Television adaptation[edit]

The novel was optioned for television in October 2014 by the production company Fabrik and Fox Television Studios. Leckie wrote that the producers responded positively to her concerns about how the ungendered, dark-skinned Radchaai characters could be presented in a visual medium.[19]


  1. ^ "2014 Hugo Award Winners". The Hugo Awards. 17 August 2014. Retrieved 17 August 2014.
  2. ^ Henderson, Jane (18 August 2014). "Leckie is first to take triple crown of science fiction awards". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  3. ^ Leckie, Ann (10 June 2014). "Night's Slow Poison". Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  4. ^ Leckie, Ann (10 November 2014). "She Commands Me and I Obey". Strange Horizons. Archived from the original on 21 March 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  5. ^ Letson, Russell (27 October 2013). "Russell Letson reviews Ann Leckie". Locus. Archived from the original on 10 November 2013. Retrieved 27 December 2013.
  6. ^ Valentine, Genevieve (8 October 2013). "A Skillfully Composed Space Opera In 'Ancillary Justice'". NPR. Archived from the original on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 27 December 2013.
  7. ^ Bourke, Liz (6 September 2013). "'Nothing quite clarifies your thoughts like thinking you're about to die.' Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice". Archived from the original on 4 March 2014. Retrieved 27 December 2013.
  8. ^ Allan, Nina (January 2014). "We're reading ANCILLARY JUSTICE by Ann Leckie". Archived from the original on 10 February 2014. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  9. ^ "Arthur C. Clarke Winner 2014". Archived from the original on 2 May 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  10. ^ "BSFA Winners 2013". Archived from the original on 22 April 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  11. ^ "2014 Hugo Awards 2013". 18 April 2014. Archived from the original on 28 May 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  12. ^ "Golden Tentacle Winner 2013". Archived from the original on 1 March 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  13. ^ Gallo, Irene (29 June 2014). "Announcing the 2014 Locus Award Winners". Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  14. ^ "2013 Nebula Awards Winners Announced". 18 May 2014. Archived from the original on 18 May 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  15. ^ "2016 Seiun Awards Winners". Locus Online. 11 July 2016. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  16. ^ "Compton Crook Nominees 2013" (PDF). Archived from the original on 19 October 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  17. ^ "Tiptree Winners and Honorees 2013". Archived from the original on 21 October 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  18. ^ "Phillip K. Dick Shortlist 2013". Archived from the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  19. ^ "Ann Leckie's Hugo-winning Ancillary Justice Optioned for Television". 22 October 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2014.

Relevant literature[edit]

  • de Vogel, M. E. "Serious Shenanigans The New Space Opera and Social Commentary: An Analysis of Iain M. Banks's Surface Detail and The Hydrogen Sonata and Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch Trilogy." Utrecht University: Master's thesis, 2018.
  • Gibson, Rebecca. In Gibson, Rebecca. “Blood Stays Inside Your Arteries, Dlique”: Aliens, Cyborgs, Death, and Tea Ceremonies in Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch Trilogy. Global Perspectives on the Liminality of the Supernatural, Edited by Rebecca Gibson And James M. Vanderveen. Rowman and Littlefield.
  • Töyrylä, Roosa. "“I Might As Well Be Human. But I’m Not.”: Focalization and Narration in Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch Trilogy." (2020).
  • Wright, Wendy L. 2022. Ann Leckie's Ancillary Trilogy and the revolutionary potential of care. In ContactZone : Rivista dell'Associazione Italiana per lo Studio della fantascienza e del Fantastico, ed. by Paolo Loffredo. 1,57-69.

External links[edit]