Top critical review
The Hugo was obviously for a different book.
Reviewed in the United States on January 11, 2018
There's an awful lot wrong with this book. It's a story that essentially goes nowhere; the underlying question of whether the female protagonist will inherit her mother's name and position over her sleazebag brother hangs suspended until the end. And the answer is... No prize for guessing.
The foreground action consists of speculations as to what might be going on, instead of things actually going on. There is little sense of location with long rather silly conversations taking place in generic voids such as 'her bedroom', a 'small galley on a spaceship', or the 'waiting room of an immigration office'
The climax is undercut, partly becauses none of the participants is prepared to do anything for fear of violating 'the treaty' which stands as an obstacle to anything happening. Meanwhile, a far more interesting premise - the intention of the Raadch AI to form their own independent nation - goes completely to waste! Someone should write that book instead.
It's also a bit of a grind to read, the writing is somewhat clunky and frequently indecipherable; eg while two ambassadors have a conversation the author refers to 'the ambassador'. I had problems working out who and where people were, exascerbated by the sheer number of non-crucial characters with unpronouncable names, none of whom do much to impel the storyline.
Award for the most surreal moment: the heroine and her adoptive siste have a thing for each other and hope one day to.. you know.. marry or something. Fair enough. But then, somewhat unexpectedly, the two principal male characters both randomly come out of the closet. Together. It's most peculiar. As though Batman and Commisioner Gorden had spontaneously decided to become an item. If there's an important gender message in there it's lost on me.
I liked Ancilliary Justice enough to give it 5 stars. Which just makes this all the more disappointing.