I decided to read Ancillary Justice based on the strength of the first
chapter available on the publisher's website.
(http://www.orbitbooks.net/excerpt/ancillary-justice/) The promise
that I found in that first chapter is fulfilled in the full length
book, and I would recommend anyone who likes the first chapter to plow
on ahead and read the whole book.
Shortly after reading the first chapter of Ancillary Justice, I read
The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) for the first time. It was
interesting to contrast the two books handling of gender. In The Left
Hand of Darkness, the narrator decides to call all the androgynous,
genderless people he meets "he." In Ancillary Justice, the narrator
is used to speaking a language that makes no gender distinction, and
calls everyone "she." She spends a good amount of time speaking
foreign languages that do have gender distinctions, agonizing over
what gender to use for each person she meets, as she is bad at telling
the difference. The effect of this is that there are a few main
characters whose gender I am not sure of at the end of the book.
Another cool part about the book is that the narrator is a human who
remembers being a 2000 year old warship with the resources to monitor
all medical details of everyone onboard. The warship had many human
"ancillaries" that were a part of its artificial intelligence, and are
trained soldiers and caretakers of the ship's staff. A little under
half the book is flashback where the narrator still has all the ship's
observational powers and thinks of herself as a 20-bodied entity. The
rest is from her point of view as a one-bodied human.
The world building is good, the justice/revenge plot is good, and the
characters are well fleshed out. It has been nominated for the 2013
best novel Nebula award, and fully deserves to win.