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text 2017-08-14 17:20
My life in books
Headlong Flight - Dayton Ward
Rewinder - Brett Battles
Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie
Night Comes Early - Burt Gabot
Superman Unchained - Scott Snyder

Reading has been my past time in a long time. Growing up in the province my access to reading materials when I was a kid is very limited but I was contented with reading the short stories in my English and Filipino textbooks. In high school, I now have access to fiction books from the school library. Most of the books in the library are the classics and literary novels. These were required reading and we have to make book reports so reading them became a chore and not enjoyable. Until I found out about the Choose Your Own Adventure Books. I pretty much enjoyed those books. In college I may have forgotten reading for pleasure. Even if I had time to read, the college library does not carry fiction novels. The only time I enjoyed reading is from reading the comics collection of a friend. I remember reading issues of X-Men, X-Factor, Superman, and D.P. 7.

 

My interest in reading returned when I chanced upon a battered book when I already started working. It does not have a cover and the story is set on a world where technology is based on organic materials and not on metals. The story intrigued me and I kept on reading the book during my down time. Too bad I can’t remember the title of the story or who wrote it. This book showed me that my genre of choice is science fiction (or speculative fiction in general).

 

Since I am already working (meaning I have the means) and staying in the city (meaning I have the access), I can now buy my own reading materials. The bookstore is like a candy store! Too many books to choose from. The bookstore also introduced me to Star Trek original novels and media tie-in books in general. This is also the time that I started buying comic books, mostly from the X-Men line. And then I discovered used books stores. The books are dirt cheap. Then I started hording. I also branched to magazines by this point.

 

It came to a point that I acquire 5 but only finishing 2 then acquiring a new batch again. I realized that this a problem when I moved apartments more than 3 times now. I now have a book buying ban: buy one paperback book at most in a month. I am now shifting to electronic books and digital comics. Also a recent development, listening to audio books. I am pretty much becoming format agnostic as long as I like the story. In the next few months, I will try to unload my paperback books. (Cue Elsa, “let it go, let it go...”)

 

I have a bad habit of starting a book but not finishing it or reading multiple books at a time. Also when I read a book, I pretty much jump to another book immediately. I do not give myself enough time to reflect on the book I read. When someone asks me how I see the book, all I can say is “I liked it” or “not liked it” with no further elaboration. I would like to change that. Well, I tried it before but the only word that can describes my attempt to write reviews is “terse”. Most actually fits as a tweet.

 

How should I do it? I asked myself. I need a structure. So I made one that I hope I can follow (I might also use these guide questions as section headings).

1. Why did you pick this up?
2. What is it?
3. What is it all about? (for non-fiction)/What happened? (for fiction)
4. Did you liked it?
5. Would you recommend it?

There you go, a book review for at least 5 sentences!

 

I will also do a status update on the first 10% placing my initial impression of the book. And on the 20% mark or after 50 pages (whichever comes first), I will evaluate if I need to proceed reading. If I will DNF the book (short for did-not-finish), I will post a status update as to why and if I there is chance that I might revisit the book in the near future.

 

I now have a plan for this book blog. I hope I can stick with it. Crossing fingers.

 

 

Wow, I write more than 700 words this time! Nice!

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text 2016-10-04 19:41
Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie

Reread–I noticed this time through how much of this book is about surviving after trauma. “Choose my aim, take one step and then the next. It had never been anything else.” And obviously Breq’s particular trauma is VERY particular, but, yeah. (We also see it in Sevendai, in Skaaiat, even in the altar server. Different reactions, different lives, different roads.)

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review 2016-09-19 09:10
“Any measures are justified in the name of civilization.”
Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice

by Ann Leckie

“If you’re going to make a desperate, hopeless act of defiance you should make it a good one.”

Given its many accolades, I thought it would be impossible for Ancillary Justice to live up to its reputation. It surpassed it.

It's a little hard to describe Ancillary Justice. I've seen it called a space opera, and I suppose it is. I've seen it called a dystopia, and I suppose it is that as well. But to me, it came across primarily as a love story. Not a romance, mind you, but a love story, a tale of devotion and perseverance and friendship and heartache. Or maybe two love stories, and unusual ones at that. Love stories packed into a complex and imaginative far-future world and imperialistic alien culture.

This book is perhaps most notorious for its use of pronouns. Esk, the narrator and an ancillary body of a ship's artificial intelligence, comes from a culture that doesn't have a concept of gender. She simplifies matters by speaking of everyone with female pronouns, even when she is speaking of cultures who do care about gender, although she occasionally makes a blind guess when speaking to others:

Since we weren’t speaking Radchaai I had to take gender into account—Strigan’s language required it. The society she lived in professed at the same time to believe gender was insignificant. Males and females dressed, spoke, acted indistinguishably. And yet no one I’d met had ever hesitated, or guessed wrong. And they had invariably been offended when I did hesitate or guess wrong.

It is disorienting at first, and is as good as an implicit bias test at demonstrating our many preconceptions about gender. Then it just becomes part of the story. The issues of identity experienced by the main antagonist are equally pointed, but no less effective for it.

 

 

I had real trouble keeping track of which Mianaai was which, but I think that was the point. As Esk 19 points out,

"How are we supposed to tell them apart when they’re all the same person?”

As she also says:

“It doesn’t matter whose side anyone is on. It doesn’t matter who wins, because either way it will be you and nothing will really change.”

 

(spoiler show)

I think your experience with the book will depend on how well you deal with the pronouns, whether you like flashbacks, and how much you warm to the characters. Personally, I found myself empathising deeply with Esk; apart from anything else, she has a subtle sense of humor I thoroughly enjoyed. But the core of this book is its ideas.

Apart from gender, the story explores dehumanization, and civilization, and righteous certainty. Esk's world is made up of people who believe they are doing the right thing, even if perhaps this is because they don't look too closely at the ramifications of their actions. The Radchaai are an imperialistic culture; they invade to bring civilization--the very word "Radchaai" means civilization-- to other worlds.

“Any measures are justified in the name of civilization.”

And, of course, the Radchaai are so invested in their culture that they cannot see the inherent injustices in the system.

"Here's the truth: luxury always comes at someone else’s expense. One of the many advantages of civilization is that one doesn’t generally have to see that, if one doesn’t wish."

I don't think anyone would call the story subtle, but the way it explores these issues is multifaceted and nuanced.

Ancillary Justice is a beautiful book. For me, at least, it fully deserved every last bit of the hype. On to Ancillary Sword.

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video 2016-08-13 14:48

Someone made an Ancillary Justice book trailer!

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review 2016-04-29 13:33
Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie
Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie

I enjoyed Ancillary Justice quite a lot, although not as much as the hype made me think I would (which is, obviously, not the book's fault).

 

The book follows Breq, a character who used to be the Justice of Toren, an enormous space warship with thousands of ancillaries, human bodies robbed of personality and turned into avatars for the ship AI. Some calamitous event has stripped Breq of her thousands of extra bodies, the ship she embodies and the crew she once looked after, and left her stranded in a single ancillary body. Part of the book, told in flashback, concerns how Justice of Toren became Breq; part of it, told in the present, concerns her quest for revenge.

 

I think what I enjoyed about Ancillary Justice was the fact that Leckie takes pains to imagine a human culture that is sufficiently alien. Justice of Toren was a ship serving the Imperial Radch, a society based on expansion and annexation, conquering inhabited planets, with all the suffering and appropriation that entails. The book never shies away from the unpleasantness of its main characters, the murder they make possible in the name of "civilisation". But Ancillary Justice is not, as a novel such as, say, Isaac Asimov's similarly imperial Foundation is, a story in which humans are the same in space as they are on Earth, today. The Radchaai language, for example, doesn't differentiate between genders; the default for all Radch citizens is female (even if they're biologically male). It's interesting that the internet (read: the Puppies) has made such a fuss about this, because it's not really the point of the book; it's a detail, a reminder that we are exploring alien skies. The meat of the book really lies in its exploration of Radch politics, its conversations about the nature of power and consciousness and the interfaces between cultures.

 

The irony about Ancillary Justice and the Puppies, really, is that this is essentially exactly the kind of book they claim the Hugos exclude: military SF full of blood and violence and upheaval and even some slightly skeevy science. I wouldn't call it groundbreaking - or, at least, I wouldn't if sexism weren't so deeply ground into us all that we're surprised when a novel treats all its characters as female until proven otherwise. I enjoyed reading it, but it didn't make my head explode with awesomeness as apparently it did to the rest of the internet.

 

I will probably read the next one, though.

 

 

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