Authors: Ann Leckie
Publication year: 2015
Genres: science fiction, post-colonial, military science fiction
Series: Imperial Radch
My rating: 3 out of 5
Owner: Frome Library
The conclusion to the Imperial Radch trilogy has Breq double down on her insistence that every citizen be treated as equally as it is claimed, and faces down another Anaander Mianaai. There are some good new characters introduced from outside the Radch, and I realize that hero workship is dangerous even when the hero is as dedicated to righting the inequities of her world as Breq.
Look. I only gave it a 3 out of 5. I loved it. I also don’t think it’s quite as strong as the first two books (both 4).
I think my favorite part of this was the moment Breq realized she had been presuming a lot about her relationship with Mercy of Kalr, or Ship. And Ship pointed it out. And Breq suddenly questioned a lot of what she had been doing and her motivations. It was a very recognizable moment for someone with as much privilege as I have who tries to be an ally, but also wants desperately to be liked. I really love that Breq backed off, took her proverbial licks, and continued communicating with everyone involved.
This is also where the hero-worship thing comes in. After reading the last two books, I had been in the process if installing Breq as a character to model myself after, to an extent. She does what every white US citizen, and every white British citizen, have a responsibility to do–actively work to dismantle and redress the fuckery of colonization and empire.
Thing is when I was watching her reel and question herself, I realized that there’s a danger in Breq as hero (not enough to disqualify her mind–she does hecking good work): she can easily be just another power fantasy for the progressive minded ally. She is, in a lot of ways, the thing I wish I could be–an instrument of colonialization, who benefited from it (her ancillaries), and who works to actively redress it. And she gets a lot of opportunity I think because her body isn’t mainstream Radchaai–there are plenty of comments about her looking out of place, even though there’s enough racial equanimity in the Radch (ast least once someone’s a captain) that she gets by. She codeswitchs quite frequently between her Radch persona, and the persona of someone who has been hurt by it.
And this is the problem–if I’m not careful, she becomes what I want to be because she can wear the body and identity of someone who has been exploited by the Radch, while also being someone who facilitated and benefited from that exploitation. Basically, she’s the ally who can also be accepted as one of the people needing allies.
This is a pretty common thing among people claiming to be allies. I won’t say it’s a disprivilege tourism thing or whatever, but it’s pretty frequent that you her on the birbsite people calling out so-called allies for appropriating struggle. Which is pretty fucked up. And honestly, I get why it happens. For me, it’s because I know who the people to lift up are, and I also get FOMO. And that’s a legitimate feeling–I personally am very insecure. But that doesn’t undercut or ‘balance’ the incredible privilege I have as a white passing-for-cis-het-male person. And it wouldn’t be acceptable for me to try and ‘be one of the [insert group name here]‘.
All of which is a lot of personal confession. But also I think Leckie addresses the same thing with Breq in this book. And I love it for it.
For the plot stuff–I think the real reason this is a 3 and not higher is that a lot of the wrapup felt a little just-so. None of it felt undeserved–everything proceeded more or less from what had come before. But the climax felt a little DexMachina (which… to be fair it kind of was in-world, and was also a ton of fun with one of my favorite characters, Zeiat), and everyone’s codas felt very clean and neat. Which isn’t bad, it was just a very abrupt change.
The plot end isn’t neat–Breq and company are staring into the maw of an incredibly uncertain, dangerous, and difficult future. And… I’m going to imagine them succeeding more than failing for my part.