Since I'm currently doing the Booklikes Reading Challenge, as well as waiting on the arrival of my copy of Ancillary Mercy (the book that finishes this trilogy), I thought I would kill two birds with one stone by re-reading the previous two before it arrives, which will also mean that Ancillary Mercy is the book that also sees me complete my reading goal for the year, two months early...
Anyway, Ancillary Justice - the book is written from the point of view of Breq, but we discover very early on that this is more complicated than it sounds. Present-day Breq is an individual, who we first meet on the ice planet of Nilt when she rescues someone she remembers from her distant past who she finds dying of hypothermia, though even she can't say why.
This particular planet is outside of the jurisdiction of the Radch, who have been annexing planets and systems for thousands of years but who relatively recently started to downsize their military operations. Their 'annexations' are partly undertaken by ancillaries, who are basically humans whose planets had previously been conquered and who had been put in cold storage to be used as future soldiers - these ancillaries are linked to each other and to the AI controlling their particular ship and so are something of a group mind. As the story goes on, we discover that Breq was one of those ancillaries, so she was also the AI of the ship Justice of Toren.
Because the Radch have no way of talking about gender in their language, and we're working from Breq's point of view, the author makes the choice to use 'she' as a default when describing someone, rather than 'he'. Some readers, I understand find that hard to cope with, because it makes it a little more work to try and imagine the characters we meet (I don't agree with this, by the way and am a little sceptical as to whether they would have the same issues if everyone was described as 'he'). We come across other people whose languages do not have this issue, which actually makes the point that Breq is an outsider to them even more.
The Radch are also obsessive about status, with all sorts of etiquette to be observed (for example, not wearing gloves is a sign you are uncivilised) and an equation of Radch=civilised and everyone else=not civilised, regardless of anything else. They have been forced into stopping their ongoing conquests partly by an outside force, the Presger, and partly by decisions from within - the Radch are ruled by Anaander Mianaai, who is also made up of multiple bodies and can therefore be in every palace across the system simultaneously. Breq's main driver is revenge on Mianaai, part of whom destroyed her ship (yes, it's a little complicated, easier to read than describe!) and also caused the death of someone she particularly cared about.
Anyway, Ancillary Justice comes highly recommended - this was my 3rd read of it in three years since publication and I still enjoyed it immensely. The next book in the series is Ancillary Sword, which I will be starting shortly.