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Publisher's Summary

On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was.

Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose - to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.

©2013 Ann Leckie (P)2013 Recorded Books

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Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    980
  • 4 Stars
    932
  • 3 Stars
    443
  • 2 Stars
    160
  • 1 Stars
    106

Performance

  • 3.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    799
  • 4 Stars
    761
  • 3 Stars
    461
  • 2 Stars
    195
  • 1 Stars
    197

Story

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1,063
  • 4 Stars
    765
  • 3 Stars
    371
  • 2 Stars
    136
  • 1 Stars
    66
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Can't get past the Narrator to finish the story.

I bought this book because of the numerous awards it has received and the author is local to me so I wanted to support her work. However, when I tried to give it a listen, the narration was so bad that I just could not continue. The reader has no vocal inflection and does very deliberate pauses at all commas and periods to the point where I could not focus on the story. I would love to finish the book and comment on the work but this is not is a listenable condition for me at this point. Hopefully Audible will read these reviews and encourage a new reading so we can enjoy the work.

56 of 60 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good Story Spoiled by Narrator

Would you try another book from Ann Leckie and/or Celeste Ciulla?

Ann Leckie yes, Celeste Ciulla no.

What didn’t you like about Celeste Ciulla’s performance?

The phrasing and intonation were weird and distracted from the words. She would often end sentences on a rising note making everything sound like a question. It was very difficult to listen to.

55 of 60 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

I can't get in to the story because of reader.

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Buy the ebook, the voice actor is unbearable.

Would you ever listen to anything by Ann Leckie again?

I couldn't get in to the story because of the horrible voice acting. I gave up after about 3 hours.

What didn’t you like about Celeste Ciulla’s performance?

I've listened to hundreds of audiobooks over the years and this is by far the worst performance I've heard. The inflection is all wrong, pauses when there shouldn't be, you name it. I gave up a few hours in because I couldn't immerse myself in the story. Every other line the voice actor would screw up and that took me out of the story. I will never listen to Celeste Ciulla again, and I'm pissed off at her for ruining a Hugo Award Winning book. I actually feel bad for the author because her story was ruined by this woman.

What character would you cut from Ancillary Justice?

I listened to 3 hours of the book while driving today but I can't remember a single character name. The horrible voice acting was too distracting.

Any additional comments?

I actually yelled a couple curse words while damning the voice actor while driving. I think the people around me thought I was having road rage.

72 of 81 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Difficult story, awful narration

I'd heard a lot about this book in the sci fi world and after hearing its premise--a woman out for revenge whose body used to be a corpse-solder inhabited by the AI of a sentient ship--I figured I could hardly go wrong. The results were not as riveting as I'd hoped.

First of all, if you're on the fence about this book, let me make one thing very clear: this is not a book for sci fi noobies or casual readers. If you're not an experienced hand at sci fi, I would not recommend this book. The author uses some very confusing (if interesting) concepts throughout the book, such as a language that does not differentiate between male and female. The narrator refers to everyone she meets as "she" regardless of their biological gender. It's interesting on the one hand, because it really shines a light on what a social construct gender is, but it's very disorienting at the same time, and there's no lead-up to it at all. It's ambiguous throughout the book if some characters are male or female...not that it matters, but it does help alienate you from the getgo.

Also, the book's other main weird gimmick is the use of what can only be described as "first person omniscient" perspective. I don't know if it's ever been done before, and it works fairly well here, but it can get rather confusing. The first half of the book is interwoven with a flashback, during which the protagonist was an AI distributed simultaneously among thousands of bodies. As such, she can see and hear multiple perspectives at once. It's an interesting concept and as I say, Leckie pulls it off as well as I imagine anyone possibly could. But it's another alienating hurdle to get over.

Those challenges to the reader would be fine, if they were the only barriers to enjoying this novel; sci fi is famous for challenging perspectives and ideas, and is one of the main reasons I read it. But this book has bigger problems. One of the criticisms sci fi often receives is that it sacrifices genuine characters for an agenda of ideas and concepts. I think this is a fair criticism in general, although there are numerous counterexamples. But with authors like Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter, who write "hard" sci fi, based on actual science or at least theoretical science, what their stories lack in detailed characterization they make up for with a vast sense of wonder and awe. If you can't do wonder and awe, you'd probably better stick with characterization, then. Unfortunately, Leckie is adept at neither. The protagonist is, literally, a computer in a human's body. She doesn't feel, think, or act like most humans do, and yet little time is spent on just how she adapts to society around her. She is cold, hard to like, and inscrutable at times. The supporting characters are even worse. Lifeless, they speak in stilted dialogue that no living person would ever use. They're hard to tell apart, especially with the ambiguous gender issue.

Leckie also falls into the trap of doing more telling than showing. Many times Breq, the protagonist, simply KNOWS she knows things, without evidence. Leckie tells us such and such is so, and we're expected to take it as gospel. Characters don't show their emotions through their actions, but through adverbs. I felt throughout the book that the author knew what was going on with her convoluted, muddy plot, but didn't quite know how to explain it to anyone outside her own head, so she just had her characters explain it to themselves as best they could. It's not a good writing style; I felt like I was not a part of the reading experience. I had no characters I really cared about, nor any concepts that wowed me enough to draw me in; there WERE some interesting tidbits of the larger universe in Leckie's world, such as a group of posthumans living outside the xenophobic Radch empire, but we are only given fleeting glimpses of them. It seems like Leckie skipped the coolest parts of her world for the most confusing and uninteresting.

The first half of the book was a real slog. It picked up for me about halfway through. But the pacing is glacial. Entire chapters are devoted to single conversations between two characters, who argue philosophy and engage in more telling-not-showing. I found myself wishing in exasperation that the characters would just DO something already instead of thinking about it for hours and hours. The ending is...confusing to say the least, and sets up a sequel, so I expect this will be a series. If you're a sci fi buff, it might be worth your while just as an experiment, but I would hardly call it a book I enjoyed reading.

Now I must say something about the narration of this book. The narrator was absolutely god awful, quite literally the worst audiobook narrator I've ever heard. She has the oddest delivery of dialogue and speech rhythms. It feels like a recitation, not a narration. She tries to do male voices but ends up sounding like a cartoon character (see also her voices impersonating children). Is that what she thinks men sound like? Maybe I'm spoiled by the Steven Paceys and Frank Mullers of the world, but this lady stinks. I think her narration actually detracted from my ability to concentrate on the story and put yet another barrier between me and it, and there were plenty to deal with already. If I'd read this book on paper or kindle, I might have enjoyed it more. If you're still interested in reading it after all I've said here, I recommend avoiding the audio and reading it in your internal voice. And avoid anything this narrator does in the future, believe me.

142 of 163 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Narrated by Garmin Navigation System

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

The narration was awful and distracted from what could have possibly been a decent story.

Would you ever listen to anything by Ann Leckie again?

….hmmm, not likely.

How could the performance have been better?

The narrator obviously has a trained voice, but it seems more suited for non-fiction.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Interesting concept.

44 of 52 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Thoughtful theme, balanced action, DRY narration

A great character-centric space opera with central theme of split and conflicted identity. It explores the inward dilemmas we all face by extrapolating such a conflict into a society where consciousness can be distributed or duplicated across multiple bodies. Heavy tech and descriptions of aliens, spaceships, machines, and ray guns are all glossed over in favor of more person-scaled narrative. Leckie also weaves in some secondary themes of language and culture shock by dropping the protagonist, the human-embodied A.I. Breq, the product of a gender-neutral society, into a foreign setting where she (the default pronoun they adopt) needs to take the gender of the people around her into account when speaking their language. Breq’s quest and motivation are compelling, and the alternating past-and-present narrative timelines keep the pacing interesting, although I would have preferred to read little more about non-human societies and locales. One audiobook-specific comment I feel compelled to include (and I usually avoid doing so except in extreme cases), is that the narration is very dry and modulated. While there is a healthy effort made to differentiate character voices, and there were no instances of the em-PHA-sis placed on the wrong syl-LAB-le, I found myself too often pulled out of the moment when the emotion of the narration didn't match the contextual words.

19 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

The fake "robot" voice is literally unlistenable

How could the performance have been better?

Maybe the gimmick voice stops after a while, but I can't stay focused on the words for more than 5 minutes. I've entirely given up and am very disappointed. It's a real person trying to sound only a little like the voice of an AI or something. She does it by using incorrect inflection in almost every sentence. (Usually the sentence ends in un up-tone, regardless of whether that's how natural speech would sound.) It does a great job of making it not sound human -- too much so. My brain just can't accept it as speech and I find that I haven't been following the story after a couple minutes. Imagine having the "press 1 for english" voice read you a book. That's an exaggeration, but it is the direction they were trying to go.

Just a truly terrible idea for what sounds like an interesting story. I had wanted to listen during my commute, but now I'll have to read the ebook during dedicated time. I've liked some of Leckie's other work, so I'm really disappointed for her that the audio book was such a total failure.

To the narrator's credit... I really did wonder several times if it really was a synthesized narration.

21 of 26 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • PK
  • 05-12-14

Great story, great literary hook

What made the experience of listening to Ancillary Justice the most enjoyable?

There may be other books that have played around with gender pronouns with such mischevious fun, but this is the only one I've read. I love the premise that an artificial intelligence may have difficulty making gender distinctions, and wouldn't much care about them anyway. Add to that the fun of the A.I. using female pronouns whenever the gender is indefinate, and you have a very interesting subtext on gender as a social construct, at least for an A.I.

What does Celeste Ciulla bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

This story placed a heavy burden on the narrator who had to walk a line between sounding gender-neutral or gender-ful as the story called for. A tall order which I think she handled very well. One of the other reviewers was quite critical of the narrator's delivery being overly annunciative at times, but I appreciated that as an attempt to capture a gender-neutral A.I. attempting to navigate a gendered language. Several languages, actually. VERY entertaining and I'm sorry the second in the series hasn't been narrated onto Audible yet!

22 of 28 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing story, but the narrator is terrible

I had been recommended this book, so I knew I wanted to read it, but the narrator was so awful that I had to stop listening and just read the hard copy. The actually story is literally so amazing, hands down one of the best sci-fi novels. It just needs to be re-narrated. The actual AI that narrates the story is an extremely advanced AI that inhabits a human body, and can fairly easily pass as human. It is intelligent enough, in other words, to place inflections of words in the correct places, and time out speech in accordance with normal human behavior. The narrator, apparently, was not capable of this, and in that way, misrepresented the story. Fatal flaw, really. Whichever publisher hired Celeste for the job should probably pick another career, IMO, because they really tarnished an amazing story.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Very difficult to listen to

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Barely. I often struggled to pay attention to the long, meandering narrative about people that I didn't really care about. There were occasions of interest, particularly when the book deals with the practical reality of a self split into multiple parts. These are few and far between however. Also, the characters seemed very two-dimensional.

What didn’t you like about Celeste Ciulla’s performance?

Her ability to do multiple voices is very strained and difficult to sit through. She would really benefit from some lessons in adopting different accents. I've listened with delight to Tull's reading of the Aubrey Maturin series, so perhaps my standards are high.

I do understand the concept of her being atonal because of the nature of the narrator.. that's not a hard thing to understand. However that would only work well if other characters sounded normal (or at least were not actively difficult to listen to).

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

I don't think this would make a very good movie.

Any additional comments?

The gender thing is very interesting. I was skeptical at first but halfway through the book you realized that you're visualizing characters without an attached gender, which is an interesting perspective.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful