Breq is a person with a complicated past who is on a mission to find a legendary super-weapon.
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In a galaxy spanning future empire, artificial ship intelligences are manned by crews made up of so-called corpse soldiers. These soldiers called ancillaries; multiple bodies that all share the connected personality of the ship, effectively all the same individual person spread across hundreds of bodies and the ship's AI brain.
The ship Justice of Toren is one such intelligence, tasked for nearly two thousand years with the annexation of new worlds into the empire of the Radch. When the book opens we are near the end of a period of expansion during with the Radch has annexed world after world through aggressive military action and overwhelming force. We see the action through the viewpoint of the Justice of Toren, who once was a ship with ancillary soldiers but is now just the single-bodied individual known as Breq.
On a planet named Ors one of the Justice of Toren's bodies, named One Esk, is witness to the ruthless quashing of a rebellion against the Radch, a rebellion that could only logically have been orchestrated by the Lord of the Radch itself.
The Lord of the Radch is also a person with multiple bodies that allow omnipresence and near invulnerability, since killing one or even a dozen will leave the rest of its person safely spread out across the empire.
Confused and troubled by the massacre the Justice of Toren later discovers that some of its bodies have had their memories tampered with, and is stunned by the revelation that the Lord of the Radch has split into two factions within its own bodies and each half is in a secret struggle against the other half.
On board the ship after the massacre the individual body One Esk discovers several bodies of the Lord of the Radch have boarded the ship secretly. They command One Esk to help them and it finds itself unable to resist due to the tampering, it also realizes this has happened before and been erased from its memories. Attempting to fight back causes confusion amongst the ancillary and human crew and the Lord of the Radch destroys the ship rather than reveal its secret. One Esk escapes in a shuttle and is left with just one single body surviving after the Justice of Toren and all the rest of its ancillary bodies are destroyed.
One Esk flees the empire to escape surveillance and disguises itself as a human named Breq, spending the next twenty years looking for a specific alien weapon that can get past most known defenses, so that it can get revenge for the death of its ship and crew. During this time it stumbles across a lieutenant that served with it a thousand years earlier, the lieutenant has been in suspended animation after his own ship was destroyed and descended into a drug haze unable to cope with the new world he woke to.
Breq/One Esk feels moved to help the lieutenant, who does not recognize it and believes it to be a human. They travel together through an icy landscape on a remote planet, the lieutenant struggling with his addiction and Breq wondering if rescuing him was a good idea. They eventually find the gun in the possession of a collector, and after a near-fatal accident on an icy bridge the lieutenant begins to turn his life and attitude around. They return to the Radch empire, One Esk on a mission of revenge and the newly sober lieutenant simply hoping to re-enter Radch society.
Back in the Radch it doesn't take long for One Esk to be identified despite its disguise it is called for an audience with the Lord of the Radch. One Esk reveals all that it knows, and the two factions of the Lord of the Radch are unable to keep the secret any longer, plunging the city they are on into chaos as they try to minimize the spread of the information outside the local system.
One Esk and the lieutenant manage to escape and get to an orbiting ship in time to prevent the Lord of the Radch from simply destroying the planet in order to keep the secret. They succeed and at the end of the story find themselves allied with one of the factions of the Lord of the Radch and looking at the prospect of a civil war.
Best part of story, including ending:
The idea of a distributed intelligence composed of both a ship and its troops is very interesting.
Best scene in story:
There's a scene when the communications network fails and the previously connected bodies of Justice of Toren are left whole but divided, Leckie conveys their feeling of feeling blind and deaf even though each one of them is uninjured.
Opinion about the main character:
Breq is unfortunately a very dispassionate character with few emotions and not much interest in things, this makes it hard to care about its motivations.